As the destruction of farm animals continues across the UK - and one zoo put down 18 healthy animals in a bid to curb foot and mouth disease - a Catholic animal welfare group has branded the cull as 'brutal and unnecessary'. "The only thing fatal about foot and mouth disease is the fact that the animals get shot - said Mervyn Bocking, chair of the Catholic Study Circle For Animal Welfare. Mr Bocking said: "The disease is not much worse than a cold. If these poor animals were left for three weeks they would recover completely. They would lose some weight initially but then come back to normal. But it is not animal welfare that the government is concerned about. It is profit. "Modern farming methods, and the government's current agricultural policy have much to answer for" he said. "If it wasn't for these huge supermarket chains importing animals and transporting livestock hundreds of miles in order to order to buy at the cheapest price, a disease like this would never have caught hold so badly in the first place." "Unless the government has a change of heart, cuts back on imports to make it easier for farmers to sell their produce locally, and encourages them to use more humane methods of rearing animals - the industry will die in this country." he said. "It is dying because of greed." Echoing these sentiments, Deborah Jones, secretary of the CSCAW said: "While we have huge sympathy for the plight of farmers during this present crisis, we question the practice of wholesale slaughter and non-inoculation of livestock for what is an unpleasant, but not fatal, animal-only disease. "We know that this is based on government-endorsed economic criteria which have also been behind modern intensive farming practices - for which we all pay dearly - in human health, environmental pollution, selective subsidies, not to mention animal welfare. When animals suffer stress from cramped, high-density living conditions and long journeys, their immune systems weaken and they succumb to diseases. Pumping them with antibiotics and growth hormones further stress their bodies - and do us no good either. "We just pray that this crisis will result in radical changes in the way we produce food and that animal welfare and human and environmental health will take priority over huge profits for the few (like biochemical companies) and the illusion of 'cheap' food." The CSCAW is an international organisation approved by the Catholic hierarchy. Its president is Archbishop John Ward.
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