What are activists doing for animals? Not eating them!

Where are the animal rights protesters, you ask ("Silence of the lambs' champions", 16 April). Where we have always been, David Cox - working our bloody socks off in an effort to protect animals from people like you. If the 520,000 animals slaughtered so far due to foot-and-mouth is a holocaust, what is the 2.5 million slaughtered every day in Britain for the meat industry? Where are the tears for them?

I suppose it is all right so long as it is done behind closed doors. As an animal rights campaigner, not an animal welfare campaigner, I don't ask for a kinder way to be cruel. We don't ask paedophiles to treat their victims with more respect.

The foot-and-mouth victims have been spared the disgusting livestock lorries belting down motorways to far-off barbaric slaughterhouses, the bullying by market drovers and the overcrowded, stinking fattening units, just to satisfy the gastronomic taste buds of weak-willed carnivores. Intensive animal farming has practically brought the country to its knees and you have the nerve to ask us what we are doing about it. Not eating them!

Pat Griffin

David Cox suggests that we deliver a leaflet through every letterbox in the country and organise a demo in every town. The first lesson of campaigning is to focus your resources and energies. To follow Cox's campaigns strategy would be wasteful and idiotic. But even if it made sense, does Cox imagine animal rights people have unlimited funds, or that we are something other than a movement of mostly unpaid volunteers? Where does Cox think he heard about the suffering caused by the use of the stun gun? It was Animal Aid that organised a letter outlining the problem to Nick Brown - copied to national media and signed by several welfare and rights groups.

Andrew Tyler
Director, Animal Aid
Tonbridge, Kent

David Cox states that, six years ago, the live animal export trade was "stopped in its tracks by an army of housewives and pensioners". As one of those angry pensioners, I can confirm that our campaigning, mar-ches, petitions and disruptions at ports and airports had no effect on the live export trade. Exports of beef cattle and baby calves were finally halted in June 1996 as a result of BSE, while exports of sheep and pigs continued until the foot-and-mouth restrictions put a stop to them two months ago.

Peter Allen
Worthing, West Sussex

The foot-and-mouth saga is a reminder of the equally hysterical reaction to the escape of a rabid dog at Camberley, Surrey, in October 1969. For two days, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had 70 gunmen and hundreds of beaters trampling around 1,200 hectares of countryside blasting at anything that moved: 130 animals were shot - none had rabies. The farce did result in wild animals being spread over a much larger area than they originally inhabited and, if any of them had been carrying rabies, Maff would have succeeded in spreading it far and wide.

Maff never learns. For a quarter of a century, it has been slaughtering badgers - first with gas, later with snares and now with cage traps and guns - in a bid to reduce or eradicate TB in cattle: 30,000 badgers have been killed and yet TB in cattle is even more widespread. If all the millions spent on killing badgers had been spent on developing a TB vaccine for cattle, there would no longer be a problem. Faced with such examples of high-ranking gormlessness, is it any wonder the animal rights lobby has no stomach to protest at the cull of farm animals that have anything but fulfilling lives and would anyway soon suffer the anguish of slaughter in some grotty abattoir?

John Bryant
President, RSPCA Dulwich branch
London SE18

Contrary to what David Cox implies, Compassion in World Farming has repeatedly condemned the unnecessary mass slaughter of huge numbers of healthy farm animals. We have organised a demonstration on Saturday 21 April at Richmond Terrace, London SW1, where supporters will make a presentation to 10 Downing Street. Anyone is welcome to join us at 11am.

Julie Briggs
CIWF, Petersfield, Hampshire

This article first appeared in the 23 April 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Blessed are the pure in heart