Foot and Mouth Slaughter in Kyushu
Meanwhile, in the southern island of Kyūshū, more than 280,000 farm animals, mainly cows and pigs, have been slaughtered this year due to an outbreak of ‘foot and mouth disease’, a virus which can be spread by human beings. While it is uncomfortable for animals, is rarely fatal and can be treated by vaccination. Yet it is thought that more than 300,000 animals will be painfully murdered in the hope of containing the outbreak.
The situation has become so difficult that the Japanese Self Defence Force has been sent to assist in the clean up. Even local livestock farmers are distressed by the sight of the killings.
Central government has admitted that it mishandled the outbreak after it became known local authorities. The reason for the slaughter is again financial and it is estimated that farmers will lose as much as ¥20 billion for the mismanagement.
Yet it is the tax payers of Japan who will be left paying for the mistake. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry have announced that it will pay farmers ¥59,000 for each slaughtered cow as a financial benefit and to further pay farmers rents for land used to bury the slaughtered livestock. Despite pledging more than a billion dollars in assitance, the government had difficulties in obtaining consent for the slaughter because livestock farmers were dissatisfied with the government’s level of financial compensation.
In the Kyushu case, the animals were being reared for the sake of a luxury meat product only affordable by a tiny few individuals at the top of society; the Miyazaki variety of premium “wagyu beef”. In essence, the compensation is a subsidy of the luxury food market by the majority of individual Japanese people who could never afford to eat such food.
Wagyu beef can wholesale for as much as ¥28,000 a kilogram in Japan and retail at $300 a pound in export markets.
Although it is too early in the case of the most recent outbreak, a similar foot and mouth outbreak in 2000 was traced to the cost cutting efforts of one farm which imported cheap wheat straw as feedstuff from the People’s Republic of China. Upon it was fecal-like substances which containing the virus. Despite the risk, such feedstuffs were imported even in Winter when the virus is able to live longer.
There are approximately 1.7 million dairy cattle, 2.8 million beef cattle and 9.8 million pigs in Japan. Livestock worth about 2.5 billion Yen, or 25% of agricultural production.