The Swine Flu impact
This week we have some disappointing news…unfortunately the latest group of dogs due to come over to us from Bulgaria have been delayed due to an African Swine Fever outbreak in Eastern Europe.
Swine Flu is an issue because an outbreak prevents the transportation of any animals through affected areas. This is a measure put in place to try and slow or stop the spread of the disease African Swine Fever, which is highly contagious and causes pigs to become poorly very quickly, resulting in death within just one week of infection.
But now it is also affecting our street dogs, so whilst the poor guys at Street Hearts battle to save who they can and secure homes in the UK these issues threaten to slow down and even halt the wonderful work they do.
Also, on the 13th August, dogs rescued from the meat trade in China arrive to start their new lives here with loving families. This is an incredibly emotional issue for dog lovers in the UK, who understandably can’t bear the thought of their fluffy companions meeting their untimely end in such a horrific way. But in China and some neighbouring countries dogs are simply considered a ‘food’ animal, just as we see pigs here in the UK and across Europe.
Whilst our perception of the situation may cause us to feel angry and upset, in truth the only difference is our cultures. Imagine for a moment that we had a dog flu epidemic in the UK, meaning all dogs had to be killed where outbreaks were confirmed. Now imagine that the African Swine Fever outbreak happened here in Manchester…had we been the unlucky ones our pigs would have been killed, as we’d be within the 10k radius.
Pigs are, contrary to popular belief, highly intelligent, incredibly clean, friendly and affectionate animals. Most people never get the chance to observe them outside of a farm environment, but when you take time to get to know them and properly see them as they are the similarities between them and dogs are undeniable. Our pigs are real characters. They play, sit for a treat, walk on a lead, love comfy beds and warm radiators, wag their tails when they’re happy – just as dogs do. Every single pig killed for meat is an individual, just like them, with a personality, emotions, friends and feelings.
Anyone who remembers the Foot and Mouth disease epidemic of 2001 will know how horrific those scenes were, the countryside dotted with piles of animal carcasses burning, the normally still air ringing with the sound of relentless gunshots. Current scenes in Bulgaria are reminiscent of this tragedy; pigs will be killed in their thousands in an attempt to stem the spread of the disease. Some experts predict that the entire population of pigs in Bulgaria, close to 600,000, will be killed. Anthony from Street Hearts told us that 17,000 pigs on their local farm, plus all wild and domestic pigs within 20km radius including pet pigs have to be killed where the latest confirmed case is – this is just one example of sheer horror that the people and pigs affected face. We cannot put into words how this makes us feel. If this were local to us, our 5 pigs would be killed too. Unimaginable.
Although we are naturally upset that the dogs can’t come over for the foreseeable future, the effects of the outbreak are devastating for us as we also consider the impact it has on the pigs at the centre of the crisis. Most media reports focus on the farmers, the financial loss – with little concern for the individual animals who are suffering in the middle of it all. The disease doesn’t affect humans, but it is incurable in pigs and kills up to 90% of those infected. The truth is that the delay for the dogs, and the unimaginable pain the pigs are suffering, wouldn’t be a reality if it weren’t for the meat industry.
Some of you may know that we ourselves are vegan and have rescued many of our lovely farmies from the farming industry. It isn’t something we often publicise, but it’s certainly relevant to the work we do, and as veganism is becoming more popular and accepted we are gently trying to help people to change their perception and make the connection between dogs, who they love so very much, and other animals, who are almost exclusively seen as sources of ‘food’ or ‘meat’.
This latest issue highlights the knock-on effect animal farming can have on the efforts to help and save other animals, like the dogs from Street Hearts BG. We can only hope for the sake of the dogs and the pigs that the authorities can put an end to this epidemic sooner rather than later.