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Animals Over Africans
European priorities.


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Deroy Murdock

It’s a shame European functionaries don’t care as much about Africans as they do about pigs.

British hog farmers are baffled by new regulations imposed by Eurocrats in Brussels. They require them to give toys to pigs to keep them smiling while they roll in the mud and otherwise fatten themselves up before slaughter.

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As Valerie Elliott reported in the January 29 Times of London, the European Commission expects EU farmers to provide pigs with “environmental enrichment” and “manipulable material” on which they can chew, rather than nibble on each other. These guidelines will become British law this month. Violators will face up to three months in jail and maximum fines of 1,000 pounds (about $1,640).

“We mean footballs and basketballs,” suggests one British official. “Different color ones will do…the important thing is to see pigs happy in their environment, and they like to forage with their noses.”

These rules stem from the EC’s Directive 2001/93 concerning, among other things, “Permanent access to materials for rooting and playing.” This follows the EC’s September 30, 1997 adoption of a scientific committee report called “The Welfare of Intensively Kept Pigs.” The authors of this control-freak classic calculated the precise space requirements “for a pig to be able to lie down in lateral recumbency.” They conclude that “continuous noise in pig houses should be kept low, and continuous noise levels as loud as 85 dBA should be avoided.” They also assert that “maintaining an individual distance” among pigs reduces the “chance of rape.”

“The EU gives new meaning to politicians having their snouts in the trough,” says John Blundell, president of the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs in London.

While Eurocrats spend countless hours assuring that swine stay amused in tranquil, romantic settings, they are lazier than Frenchmen in August when it comes to letting Africans feed themselves. That’s not fair. Their behavior actually has exacerbated hunger in Africa.

The EU bans imports of genetically modified grain, including American-grown GM corn. It fears such “Frankenfoods,” even though you likely will consume GM products in your breakfast cereal, lunchtime sandwich or after-dinner cake — and live to talk about it.

African leaders have followed these European worrywarts. While their constituents become wafer-thin, they spurn American food donations. According to the United Nations, some 14.4 million southern Africans soon could succumb to drought-induced starvation. Nonetheless, Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa curled up his lip at gifts of GM grain. “We would rather starve than get something toxic,” he declared. This year, some three million Zambians may grant his wish, even as Mwanawasa reportedly lets 16.5 million tons of foreign, possibly-GM grain contributions sit idle.

Others, such as Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, (for whom French President Jacques Chirac plans to roll out the brie wheels at a February 21-22 Franco-African summit) have banned GM corn imports to prevent it from cross-pollinating with local crops. Their understandable concern is that some GM seeds could mix with theirs and prevent them from eventually exporting grain to increasingly skittish Europeans.

Ugandans, meanwhile, eat 500 pounds of bananas per-capita annually. However, an airborne fungus threatens this staple. While a bio-engineered solution is at hand, Ugandans must follow strict and costly scientific protocols to prove the safety of such GM bananas to potential European customs inspectors. “The Europeans have the luxury to delay,” W. K. Tushemereirwe, Uganda’s director of banana research, said in the Wall Street Journal last December 26. “They have enough to eat. But we Africans don’t.”

“The EU thinks pigs should be better cared for than those living in Europe’s former colonies in the Third World,” says Richard Miniter, senior fellow with the Centre for the New Europe, a leading Continental free-market think tank. “It could have been worse,” he adds by phone, just yards from the Grand Place in Brussels. “Last year the EU passed rules on how to use a ladder.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick gives the EU even less credit. “I see something extremely disturbing,” he told reporters last month. “The European anti-scientific view spreading to other parts of the world — not letting Africans eat food you and I eat and instead letting people starve.”

In a new low in this up-with-animals/down-with-humans ideology, consider Ingrid Newkirk’s February 3 letter to Yasser Arafat. The president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote the Palestinian strongman to complain about a January 26 bombing in which an explosives-bearing donkey blew up, killing only itself. Newkirk faxed Arafat to “request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict.” Asked if she would persuade Arafat to prevent his followers from detonating people, Newkirk told the Washington Post: “It’s not my business to inject myself into human wars.”

All this, and it’s only February.

— Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.



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