I put mystery in quotes because they know exactly what the virus is and are pretty sure how it spreads so there really isn’t mystery here. But it’s more pressure on the global food supply we don’t need. England’s Muslim population relies heavily on lamb to stick to their halal diets – when the prices of those lambs double than triple the Brits are going to have a problem on their hands.
From The Telegraph:
The Schmallenberg virus causes lambs to be born dead or with serious deformities such as fused limbs and twisted necks, which mean they cannot survive.
Scientists are urgently trying to find out how the disease, which also affects cattle, spreads and how to fight it, as the number of farms affected increases by the day.
So far, 74 farms across southern and eastern England have been hit by the virus, which arrived in this country in January.
A thousand farms in Europe have reported cases since the first signs of the virus were seen in the German town of Schmallenberg last summer.
The National Farmers Union has called it a potential “catastrophe” and warned farmers to be vigilant. “This is a ticking time bomb,” said Alastair Mackintosh, of the NFU. “We don’t yet know the extent of the disease. We only find out the damage when sheep and cows give birth, and by then it’s too late.”
It is unclear exactly how the disease arrived in Britain, but the leading theory is that midges carried the virus across the Channel or North Sea in the autumn. However, scientists cannot yet rule out transmission of the disease from animal to animal.
Infected ewes do not show any symptoms of the virus until they give birth, with horrific results. Farmers have described delivering the deformed and stillborn animals as heartbreaking.
The lambing season has only just begun, which means that the full impact of the disease will not be felt until the weather warms up and millions more animals are born.
On the Continent, some farms have lost half of their lambs. So far the worst hit in Britain have lost 20 per cent, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Approximately 16 million lambs are born in Britain every year and sell at market for about £100 each. The effect of the disease on farms that are already struggling in the downturn could be severe.
“For any business to lose 20 per cent of your stock would be a huge blow,” said Mr Mackintosh. “For a farmer to lose 20 per cent of your flock is catastrophic. If it was 50 per cent you would be put out of action.
“I was talking to one who has 10,000 sheep. If he loses even five per cent of the animals born this year, that’s a hell of a lot of lambs. I know another who says 10 per cent of his ewes have become barren. He has 6,000 ewes, so that is 600 animals producing nothing.”
The Food Standards Agency has sought to allay any fears about eating lamb, although little is known about the virus so far.
That last sentence is problematic. If they aren’t sure how it spreads why are we sure the lambs are safe to eat?
In a related note the British government has admitted it’s totally out of money. When people start demanding free lambs the Brits are not going to be able to provide and then the London riots will look like tea time.