Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Foot-And-Mouth Disease in Korea

A columnist in the Catholic Times tells us about the meeting held in Seoul with representatives of Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, Won Buddhists and the Chondoists. The message inviting the participants to the urgent meeting follows below.

 "From November of last year, when the foot-and-mouth disease began to spread, about 200,000 cows and pigs have been buried alive; since the disease continues to spread, we don't know how many more will be buried alive. Because they do not have the appropriate medicines, they say it is necessary to bury them alive. We want to meet because of this gruesome offense against life: to show our deepest regret for this loss of life, and to discuss the situation and learn why these steps  were taken, and to find ways to prevent it in the future. We need also to find out why our livestock policies have brought this on us. And to talk about the problems with our food supply."

The columnist reports that the Catholics were the largest group attending the meeting. It was a strange feeling, he said, to see Catholics lamenting  the death of  animals, more strange than seeing the different rites. However, our columnist was not put off by the ceremonies but respected the other religions for their display of sympathy.

He feels that the animals became the scapegoat for the financial concerns of the live-stock policies of the government. Seeing on TV the holes being dug and animals being buried alive was heartbreaking. It was, said The Peace Weekly, criticizing the government policy, a man-made calamity. If the situation had been handled properly, the editorial states, it  would not have developed in the way it had.

The editorial goes on to say that  animals are not allowed a natural life, are confined to small spaces and given antibiotics, growth hormones and preventive injections--all because of the industrialization of farming (the factory farm system), which has further diminished the animals' immunity. But the ultimate culprit may be the consumer's demand for more and cheaper meat.

It was reported that a woman, called the 'mother of pigs,' was so upset by seeing the burial of live pigs that she fell into a deep depression and had panic attacks; she took to her room and would not leave.

The government does reimburse completely for the financial loss, but it will take time. In the meantime, the farmers will not be able to start again for six months, and perhaps even more time before they will be able to buy younglings in the market.

Although the columnist cannot lessen the pain of what has happened, he said that he can in some measure share that pain and lament with those who have been so afflicted in this difficult period.

This outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease is extremely contagious and demands swift action on the part of the government. Because of the  disease, Korea cannot  trade  in meat products with the rest of the world. The reaction of many in Korea would be quite different from other parts of the world because of the Buddhist influence on our culture. Many of the farmers, along with the government officials involved in the massacre, are suffering from some traumatic stress disorder, which is easily understood when so many innocent animals have been killed in such a brutal way.

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