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Leading Article: Not over the moon at Major's victory

Waiting for news of Major's "victory" in Florence, television news watchers will have been unable to avoid the following images: circular saws slicing through dead cows; spinal cords being teased out of carcasses and thrown into pails, and slopping skips of "specified bovine offal" being driven to specified bovine disposal sites. That this is interlaced with images of placid beasts being petted by worried farmers intensifies rather than dilutes the horror. Such footage usually concludes with a vision of bovine inferno, a hapless cow (rejected as unfit for what we now call the "human food chain"), legs in air, being fed into a glowing incinerator. This is a glimpse of what could end up as the cull of 1.2 million cattle: a cow city the size of Birmingham. Whimsical scruples, you might say. Cows die that we might eat them. It matters nothing to the cows that they will now die without our eating them.

And yet, as Stephen Dorrell affects sorrow (for the human victims of our disgusting farming practices) and anger (at European obstinacy in excluding British cows from their dinner tables), couldn't we spare some sorrow and some anger for the animal casualties of our greed. Cows do not have a happy life. Stuffed with antibiotics and hormones, perpetually procreating or lactating, their offspring snatched from them and minced at birth, fed on the unspecified offal of any available proteinous cadaver, and exited from the world when the price they will fetch as rendered protein exceeds the value of their milk yield, there is little to make a British cow laugh or, indeed, jump over the moon. Maybe it is right to be confronted with what now passes as animal husbandry. If we cannot muster compassion for the animals we slaughter, then perhaps fastidiousness will at least change our eating habits.