• DAY 387 (over-running): HITCHING WITH PIGS ALONG THE RIVEIRA

    Oct 15th
    Julia and Alberto waiting by the side of the motorway. And waiting. And waiting

    Julia and Alberto waiting by the side of the motorway. And waiting. And waiting

    I am sitting by the side of a hot dusty mortorway north of Barcelona watching trucks going by at high speed. I’m looking for a pig truck to follow along the south coast of france so I can  document conditions.

    I am terrifyingly bored. Is this what compassion looks like?

    This is the start of the route that many Spanish pigs take on their way to Italy and then down to Sicily for slaughter.

    The continuing pig journey. I'm following pigs that travel from Spain down to Italy for slaughter

    The continuing pig journey. I’m following pigs that travel from Spain down to Italy for slaughter

    I am spending a few days with Julian Havenstein from a charity called Animals Angels along with her colleague, Alberto Diez. They make it their job to document the live export of animals and report information to the authorities.  It’s an essential job – desperately essential – and yet devastatingly dull.

    ‘Shall we get a coffee?’ I ask.

    ‘A coffee? We can’t take our eyes off the road I’m afraid.’ says Julia.

    ‘How long might we wait?’

    ‘Ten minutes. Or it could be many many hours’

    I want sweets, I want coffee, I want digital information, I want a shit magazine, I want a phone call. I will take a sales call from a I want something to put in my mouth, to wear on my head or to put in my pocket.

    A slice of bacon perhaps?

     

    Alberto takes photos of the trucks when they stop for petrol (or their obligatory rest stop for the drivers.) Strangely the drivers are very accepting of the work Animals Angels do. Often they sympathise with their work but are forced to break some laws by their employers

    Alberto takes photos of the trucks when they stop for petrol (or their obligatory rest stop for the drivers.) Strangely the drivers are very accepting of the work Animals Angels do. Often they sympathise with their work but are forced to break some laws by their employers

    Julia and Alberto inspect a truck

    Julia and Alberto inspect a truck

    Logos and kaleidoscopes.

    Haulage trucks go by. I notice how many have logos on their sides of animals in ideal form: greyhounds sillouhetted in mid-run, bulls charging, horses galloping, icons of power, efficiency that persuade us to buy products.

    So ironic that each of these animals is so downtrodden here in Spain: the Galgo abused by the Galgueros, the bull tormented by the matador, the horses consumed for their meat. This irony is not isolated to spain. All nations have a kaleidoscope view of animals that borders on insanity – we adore them, fear them, hunt them, worship them and eat them, sometimes one at the same. All the while the animal sits at the centre of this swirling confusion, silent.

    Nothing captures the idea of animals as silent, passive units quite so well as a truck stuffed with creatures heading to their death.

    The only welfare protection afforded is that provided by EU law. These laws dictate stocking densities, the need for watering systems and most crucially limits on travel times. But when a pig can travel for 29 hours, be unloaded for 24hours and then start all over again, ad infinitum, some of those limits are unlimited.

    The questions I have on this journey are:

    How well are EU laws enforced?
    And how much does the typical pig suffer on its journey to slaughter?

    Many animals travel this route.

    Horses, chickens, cows, calves, sheep, lamb… Key welfare issues include overcrowding, lack of water, trampling, stress induced illness, excessive heat, young animals not getting appropriate food and the very real dangers involved in the loading and unloading process. Fatalities are so commonplace that a death rate of a few percent is economically factored into the cost of most transport.

    4Y1A3306

    A chicken puts it's head through the plastic grating.

    A chicken puts it’s head through the plastic grating.

    We see a number of trucks,  but no pigs. We trail them for a while till we get to a petrol station and then take photos. To my dismay every single one is breaking an EU law in one form or another.  Julia has both years of experience in dealing with this and is a trained lawyer – so I trust her judgment completey.

    ‘It’s totally normal that they break the law. The problem is enforcement’

    Julia shows me a photo of a horse with a vastly inflamed penis. Once again I’m reminded of my school bus journey to Austria, sitting behind the girl I so fancied for so many hours. I found it fairly enjoyable but Julia is making a key point.

    ‘They shouldn’t be putting male and female horses so close together, it can lead to trouble’.

     

    A horse swells up in transport.
    Horse meat, unlike in the UK is not an issue. They just eat the stuff.

    Horse meat, unlike in the UK is not an issue. They just eat the stuff.

    4Y1A3363

    A horse swells up in transport.

    A horse swells up in transport.

    The point is that laws can be broken in a multitude of ways, some subtle some more extreme, and the cumulative effect can be stressful and devastating. The problem is how can they check all the trucks and how can they enforce the law. The simple point is they can’t.

    Ten hours later, and as night falls, we see our first pig truck. We trail it into the darkness. A few snouts stick out of the railings. ‘This one doesn’t look too bad’ says Julia. But I could not have predicted what was about to happen.

     



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    14 Responses to “DAY 387 (over-running): HITCHING WITH PIGS ALONG THE RIVEIRA”

    1. Oh, I see! Last time, you wrote that you were meetingsomeone from Animals Asia to do this and I wanted to ask, “What are they doing in Europe and why not Animals’ Angels,” but it was just that you’d written the wrong one by mistake. AA are doing very good work (and I like the part about your wanting your distraction-society feeds – tragic, though funny to read) but I don’t see anything changing. I’ve sometimes photographed animals in transit and shown them online – they leave most people indifferent, so it’s not surprising things don’t change. Well, in the distraction society, people are too occupied with Strickly Come Dowton to worry about the agony of billions, let alone consider their own part in it.
      I still think horses suffer the most in transit, by their physical and psychological make-up and natural habits, their history (of relationship with manunkind) and, I would say, though many would scoff,the exquisite quality of their souls.
      Of course, many people in England sell their child’s outgrown pony or their beloved old hunter or Shire mare to such-a-nice-man, who want it for his grandchild or petting farm..

    2. ..but really they’ll be sent to the knacker’s. That’s not to mention over 1,250 thorughbreds, racehorses, mostly yearlings or two-year-olds who aren’t quite fast enough, or horses who’ve been retired (shockingly young) and have injuries or ill-health or are simply unwanted, or the ones that are exported, ostensibly for leisure or sport, but really for meat, nor the unwanted native ponies or riding-school ones. There’s so much money in racing (because of betting) so there’s bound to be callousness – that’s a universal rule, I think.

      Horses from market in Poland to slaughter:
      http://youtu.be/uOLa6iOZxsY

    3. On a motorcycle journey from the north of Scotland to London, shocked to see how many ‘meat-wagons’ there were on the road and even more awful to pass and see the eyes staring back out. No meat for my family for the past 3 years and thank goodness.

    4. Craig on a fracking bike, Martin, there you go again! (And you were doing so well…) Will you PLEASE stop publishing these completely unfounded statements and sweeping generalisations. I know you usually add a small caveat, but that’s all they are, or all they appear to be, like lawyers writing, “without prejudice.” You say that Ann’s been doing the research for your blog – well,I’m sure she has plenty else to do, so instead of publishing these sweeping and totally inaccurate statements, do some more detailed and deeper research and only publish facts.

      “So ironic that each of these animals is so downtrodden here in Spain: the Galgo abused by the Galgueros, the bull tormented by the matador, the horses consumed for their meat.”

      So abused here in Spain? No, they’re abused everywhere, but Spain-bashing’s very fashionable among sentimentalist scandal-mongers who prefer to shriek about other people’s motes in order to avoid looking at their own beam.

      “..the Galgo abused by the Galgueros..”
      You mean like British children all being sexually abused by pop stars and presenters?
      What? You assure me that it’s only a very small minority of British children who are abused? You claim that most adult British aren’t paedophiles? Are you sure? Well, there’s a surprise – and I had the impression it was non-stop over there!
      Guess what – it’s only a very, very small minority of galguerros (no capital letter – it just means a person who owns, trains, breeds or works with galgos) who abuse their dogs.
      You talked about research for this blog – do some! Check the real figures, not what a few people have told you. Do you even know how many of each of the hunting breeds there are in Spain? No. Which breeds are for what and why? No. How many are registered and how many not? No. D’you know what proportion are for ordinary chaps to do a bit of rabbiting at the weekend and how many are valuable (can be 50,000€ for a champion) competion dogs? No. D’you know where they hunt deer, where boar, where hares or rabbits or wildfowl and which dogs they use or how many? No. Have you actually met or interviewed even one hunter, let alone a selection of types on various terrains? No. D’you know how many hunters use guns and how many prefer to go out with just the dogs and watch them work? No. Or which breeds are used together in a pack in big hunts? No.D’you know how many of the discarded dogs are killed in cruel ways or purposely hurt by their owners? No. In fact, you got your initial information from an emotive artcile in the Daily Maul, cynosure of all serious journalists, I don’t think, so well known for in-depth research and accurate reporting, I don’t think, and continued by asking the writer of that article and meeting only the people they indicated and who speak English. Look up the figures, including how many dogs reported abused or killed in violent ways in recent years, how many end in perreras (a perrera is pound, not, as the foreign fanatics claim, a “killing station;” .. perr-era = dog-place = pound.) They all used to keep animals for 6-7 months, to give them a chance to be adopted; most still keep them as long as possible, but since the economic “crisis” started in 2008, more and more people find it impossible to keep their animals. Did you know that in Spain there are at least 3 million people with an income of only 307€ a month? There’s no housing benefit or other safety net, except charities such as Caritas – when people can’t pay the rent or mortgage and can’t feed their families, of course they have to give up their beloved animals, but don’t kid yourself they do it without shedding tears. Check the statistics for dogs (or cats or horses) in, Spain, France and the U.K., for instance – check how many there are, what percentage are euthanised because unwanted, what percentage are unwanted pets, what percentage are farmed, what percentage are working animals (police, guard, hard, etc.) and the average ages. (While you’re about it, check how many dogs have been abandoned by British people leaving Spain because of the exchange rate or the necessity of declaring their foreign assets – approximately one thousand two hundred in 2012 in one area of the Costa Blanca alone.) Check how long the pounds or shelters keep them in other countries. See what happens to racing greyhounds in various places (including Australia, where they’ve been going to laborartories for vivisection.) After that, you may be qualified to make some tentative statements. Otherwise, you should only speak of what you’ve actually seen and can prove.
      Over 800,000 galgos in Spain )not counting pods, spaniels, etc. – just galgos) and last year there were 12 or 13 cases of violent killing by the owners (hanging, etc.) but I think only 5 of those were galgos. That’s 0.000015% meeting violent deaths from their owners – not so exciting when you put it like that, is it? I’ve tried to work out the percentage that are abandoned or taken to shelters or pounds, but far more of those are podencos and fewer pods are registered, so I haven’t managed it, but it appears to be about 2-3% by my present calculations – could be way out, though.

    5. “..the bull tormented by the matador..”
      Whatever you think or feel about the corrida, to describe it in those terms displays an insulting ignorance – not unavoidable ignorance, which is forgiveable, but ignorance because you haven’t bothered to learn or think much about the subject, yet you think it’s O.K. to make statements about it. D’you think that someone who simply wanted to “torment bulls” would study, practise, work very, very hard all day, every day, for years and years, save up, win scholarships, go to college or be apprenticed, work on farms, learn about the physical and mental qualities of different types of toro bravo, the many skills, traditions, moves, the courage, the fitnes, the art.. .. I could go on and on. And the bulls are flippin’ massive! As for the rejoneadores (they’re the mounted toreros) they also have to be quite exceptional horsemen and their horses schooled better than an Olympic dressage horse, as they’re within a hairsbreadth of death and are playing with the greatest risks, but it has to be more than that – the horse responds to the rider’s thoughts and vice versa; they really do seem to become one and like a centaur and dance and leap in a balletic game. The greatest rejoneador del mundo is Pablo Hermoso de la Mendoza and here’s an interview: http://www.lapatria.com/micrositio-feria-de-manizales-2013/el-rejoneador-debe-robar-el-alma-del-caballo-23744 (Use Google translate)
      I’m a pacifist and wish there were no armies, but I can still respect military personnel for their courage, skills, knowledge and training; nor should I make sweepingly dismissive statements about them. You may dislike and disapprove of bull-fighting, but to describe it as “the bull tormented by the matador” is just too facile and disrespectful to humans, horses and the bulls themselves.
      As for the life of a toro de lidia or toro bravo: he’ll stay at pasture in the dehesa with his mother – like Ferdinand the Bull – until he’s ready to be weaned, at between 7 and 11 months of age. How does that compare with a dairy or meat bull calf? At weaning, they leave their mothers and live in big herds of bullocks, free range, for up to four years; at four or five years old, they’ll go to fight or may be kept as breeding sires. The breeding bulls and the cows will live to about 18 years old and many breeders keep a quiet pasture for the elderly retirees to live out their days in peace. http://lafotodeltoro.blogspot.com.es/2012/05/las-edades-del-toro-bravo.html http://www.toroslidia.com/toro-de-lidia/las-edades-del-toro/
      I’m not trying to argue particularly in favour of the corrida, but you shouldn’t trivialise it with such terms.

      Last, but by no means least, you write, “.. the horses consumed for their meat.”
      What on earth gave you that idea? There’s very little demand for horsemeat in Spain.
      The horse in Spain is not only loved, but is a source of pride and a status symbol; what Spaniard doesn’t feel enormous pride in the quality and fame of Iberian horses and riders? I love all breeds, but the PSE is undeniably one of the most elegant and impressive and the doma vaquera is also famous worldwide, as are the horses of rejoneadores and the wonderful dressage of the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre in Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz. When I first came to Spain, as a child, in 1955, we hardly saw any horses; only wealthy people, landowners, aristocrats and the higher grades of military or Guardia had horses. Everywhere, there were mules and donkeys, but mules most of all. Farms would have a well with a mule walking round and round to pump up the water; they were used for ploughing and field work, for carrying water and paniers of goods, for riding to market, harnessed to carts.. Only in the last 25 years have so many ordinary people been so much better off and able to have horses to ride and drive. They were never thought of as dinner! Horse meat is not generally eaten in Spain. Since the ‘crisis economica,’ as I explained above, unemployment and lack of state benefits have thrown many individuals and families into real poverty and the numbers of horses sent to slaughter has risen by an extra 5-7,000 a month! However, they won’t be eaten here, but sent to Italy to be salamified.
      Min of Ag study and census: http://www.eurocarne.com/informes/pdf/sector-equino.pdf

      So please, stop stereo-typing Spain as a country full of evil, cackling hunters looking for dogs to hurt, matadors tormenting bulls for a larf and, most bizarre and unfounded of all, hungry horse-guzzlers.

    6. “..the bull tormented by the matador..”
      Whatever you think or feel about the corrida, to describe it in those terms displays an insulting ignorance – not unavoidable ignorance, which is forgiveable, but ignorance because you haven’t bothered to learn or think much about the subject, yet you think it’s O.K. to make statements about it. D’you think that someone who simply wanted to “torment bulls” would study, practise, work very, very hard all day, every day, for years and years, save up, win scholarships, go to college or be apprenticed, work on farms, learn about the physical and mental qualities of different types of toro bravo, the many skills, traditions, moves, the courage, the fitnes, the art.. .. I could go on and on. And the bulls are flippin’ massive! As for the rejoneadores (they’re the mounted toreros) they also have to be quite exceptional horsemen and their horses schooled better than an Olympic dressage horse, as they’re within a hairsbreadth of death and are playing with the greatest risks, but it has to be more than that – the horse responds to the rider’s thoughts and vice versa; they really do seem to become one and like a centaur and dance and leap in a balletic game. The greatest rejoneador del mundo is Pablo Hermoso de la Mendoza and here’s an interview: http://www.lapatria.com/micrositio-feria-de-manizales-2013/el-rejoneador-debe-robar-el-alma-del-caballo-23744 (Use Google translate)

    7. I’m sorry – I know I was feeling strongly, but I didn’t mean to post the same comments again and again! I don’t know how that happened. I do mean it, though – the British do love to condemn Johnny Foreigner out-of-hand and with little knowledge, honesty or humility.
      You’re an exceptionally privileged person from a privileged country and you’ve had a privileged year – have enough respect to get the facts right.

      P.S. IKEA candles = palm oil (à propos of everything)

    8. Hi Kate

      we should meet, I’d be keen to know more detailed ‘facts’ about galgos, and you are right that I don’t know every precise figure. I should have probably said the ‘galgos abused by some galgueros’ rather than generalised. I also don’t want to demonise Spain in particular – and have made this explicit on a number of occasions.

      However, from what I have seen with my own eyes (and as you know my intention for this year was to be largely experiential) what I said was fitting and true. There ARE galgos that have been horribly abused and neglected and there IS a problem that needs urgent attention and while I may not be an expert I have had the exposure to justify some fairly strong comments .

      Furthermore, while I have never been to a bull fight I don’t retract a word from what I said about bull fighting. How can you argue that a bull that is being slowly killed by repeated blows of a sharp sword or such-like is NOT being tormented. It makes not a jot of difference to me how well schooled the matador is or how much they may ‘respect’ the bull – and neither does the bull care. If I was being slowly murdered in front of a cheering crowd I would feel fairly tormented.

      To understand suffering like this does not need research or education. It requires compassion. Anyone with a heart can empathise with what a bull must be going through in a ring – unfortunately culture and education, and clearly you have both – can distance ourselves from our basic instincts for another’s welfare. A child would turn away from seeing a bull suffer like this – a matador ‘learns’ it is noble (or whatever other word is ‘corect’). I fear you have learnt too much.

    9. Martin: I am terrifyingly bored. Is this what compassion looks like?
      Kate: Yes.

      Martin: Hi Kate, we should meet,
      Kate: Well, I did email and invite you to stay, if you return to this area, offering to show you a more realistic and balanced picture and introduce you to some hunters (about half the men in the pueblo!) and I did repeat or mention the invitation twice more, when I sent you information, but you didn’t reply.

      Martin: I’d be keen to know more detailed ‘facts’ about galgos, and you are right that I don’t know every precise figure.
      Kate: I’m not sure why you’ve put ‘facts’ in inverted commas. Facts are facts or else they’re lies! But I think you just want to dip into things or be presented with a neatly packaged photobyte opportunity or skim the surface looking for cruelty and abuse, so you wouldn’t want to devote the necessary time or effort and, anyway, when people are looking for evidence of one thing, they “don’t see” the other. People who don’t want to think about or know about animals’ suffering can magically ignore it and people who are looking for suffering can get quite cross if they find out things are different from and better than what they expected. After all, you must have ignored the trucks full of silent suffering and supermarkets full of deadness for years before you suddenly decided to change; now you’re on the opposite tack and would probably not want to see the other side of things! It wouldn’t be so useful for your book, would it? Also, it’s not just a question of knowing figures, but of learning about a whole way of life, and you can’t do that on a flying visit.

      Martin: I should have probably said the ‘galgos abused by some galgueros’ rather than generalised.
      Kate: Probably? Certainly! But you were wrong to say it at all in this context. Look back at your post: you were waiting by the motorway with two A’s Angels, bored and watching the lorries go by; you noticed that lots had logos showing galloping horses, running greyhounds or powerful bulls, not because they were animal transport, but to symbolise speed, power or freedom, and you mused on the irony of the fact that we use those animals as symbols, yet we abuse them – but you had to write, “So ironic that each of these animals is so downtrodden HERE IN SPAIN.”
      (Yes, you then added a rider, but you keep doing that – condemning Spain, then adding hastily that of course, it’s not just Spain.)

      Martin: I also don’t want to demonise Spain in particular – and have made this explicit on a number of occasions.”
      Kate: Exactly – you demonise Spain, then explain that you don’t want to demonise Spain!
      Martin, those weren’t Spanish lorries, they were international and you could have seen the same lorries and logos on any motorway in any developed country; you saw them in Catalonia, but you could have seen them anywhere. Would you have written, “So ironic that each of these animals is so downtrodden here in the Netherlands, Britain, France, the USA” or wherever you’d seen them? I doubt it.

    10. Martin: However, from what I have seen with my own eyes (and as you know my intention for this year was to be largely experiential) what I said was fitting and true. There ARE galgos that have been horribly abused and neglected
      Kate: Of course there are and I could contact a dog rescue charity in the U.K., flip across from airport to airport to refuge, see the horrors, hear about other horrors and fly home again to write about how The British Abuse Their Dogs.

      Martin: ..and there IS a problem that needs urgent attention
      Kate: I’ve been donating and publicising for greyhounds in the U.K and Ireland since the ’80s and for galgos since 1993. There are Spanish people and others who’ve been doing it for far longer. Now you’ve suddenly discovered galgos and decided there’s an urgent problem that needs addressing! (How? By whom? By people who know absolutely nothing and don’t even speak Spanish? By the hunt federations? By the government? What should be done, exactly? Don’t you know that the problem is frequently discussed by the hunting and breeding federations? Or d’you imagine them all like mad cavemen, roaming the land in search of dogs to hang?) and that I and millions of others don’t know it!

      Martin: ..and while I may not be an expert..
      Kate: May not!

      Martin: ..I have had the exposure..
      Kate: What, two or three visits to chosen rescue centres and seeing a dead dog in a river?

      Martin: ..to justify some fairly strong comments
      Kate: Comments about what you’ve actually seen, yes – accusations, generalisations and condemnations of whole groups, nations and races, no.

    11. Martin: ..Furthermore, while I have never been to a bull fight I don’t retract a word from what I said about bull fighting. How can you argue that a bull that is being slowly killed by repeated blows of a sharp sword or such-like is NOT being tormented. It makes not a jot of difference to me how well schooled the matador is or how much they may ‘respect’ the bull – and neither does the bull care. If I was being slowly murdered in front of a cheering crowd I would feel fairly tormented.
      Kate: Don’t put words into my mouth (or keyboard.) Of course I know it’s torment for the bull! Where did I say or imply that it wasn’t? My point was that to dismiss the whole history, industry, skill, breeding, selection, development, politics, ambition, export, hectares, veterinary services, saddlery, practice, skill and suffering as simply “a matador tormenting a bull” is simply crass and shows you up as ignorant and complacent about your ignorance. I suppose you don’t want that.

      Martin: To understand suffering like this does not need research or education. It requires compassion. Anyone with a heart can empathise
      Kate: !!!!! This from the man who found it necessary to take a year off, whizz all over the world on aeroplanes (how many creatures does that destroy?) spend a massive amount of money and ask for donations, write about his travels, himself and his emotions on a blog, on Facebook and on Twitter, and be interviewed in various places – in order to try to awaken in himself the compassion he knew he should feel! This from a man who’s taken 40 years and a whole performance in order to make the connection between his plastic-packaged supermarket fare and the animals who died for it!
      Some of us don’t need to make all that fuss – we feel empathy and compassion quite easily and help animals as a matter of course. Of course, you might be more in touch with reality if you weren’t on drugs (tested on animals.)

      Martin: ..with what a bull must be going through in a ring – unfortunately culture and education, and clearly you have both – can distance ourselves from our basic instincts for another’s welfare. A child would turn away from seeing a bull suffer like this – a matador ‘learns’ it is noble (or whatever other word is ‘corect’).

      Kate: And again! I never mentioned nobility and you have no idea how I feel or what I think about bull-fighting, so don’t make assumptions. (And you were eating beef until recently!)
      However, I prefer to learn as much as possible about anything and everything, but especially if I plan to act for or against or to pronounce judgement.

    12. Martin: I fear you have learnt too much.
      Kate: Ah. Like Geeta Seshamani and Kartick Satyanarayan, you mean? Like Animals’ Angels? Compassion in World Farming? Brian Gunn? Rhett Butler? David Attenborough (to choose a very famous name) ? You should explain to them that they shouldn’t bother to study or investigate, understand or learn – they should just blast in and condemn!

      “A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
      Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
      There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
      And drinking largely sobers us again.”

      Compassion isn’t making a hysterical fuss, sloshing sentiments all over the place, raging against the supposed perpetrators – look at how Geeta and Kartick went about it and all they’ve achieved, for the people as well as the bears; look at Animals’ Angels, patient, practical, calm, everything factual, noted, documented, counted, proved, no slushy selfish sentimentality, and you won’t hear them ranting against the truck-drivers or the owners or the farmers.
      The more we learn and the better we understand things, the better we can behave in the world, if we choose.
      You think I’m hardened by culture and education, but it’s the opposite – I know enough and have experienced enough to be realistic and to try to be fair.

    13. Thanks a lot to Martin for this helpfull and original project, and of course tahnks to Julia and Alberto for their work for animals!

    14. I speak in german:

      Laßt die Würde der Tiere unantastbar. Ihr habt kein Recht einem Tier Leid anzutun. Ich bete für eine bessere Welt, in der es Menschen gibt, die Tiere wertschätzen!

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