More than 100,000 low-value hides from cattle slaughtered under the Older Cattle Disposal Scheme (OCDS) are languishing in two UK tanneries – and noboby knows what to do with them.

The stockpile, worth an estimated £1 million, is growing daily while DEFRA seeks clearance from Brussels to release them for leather production.

“We are in urgent discussions with the European Commission to get them released for technical use such as leather production,” said a DEFRA spokeswoman.

The problem has arisen because of DEFRA’s failure to sort out what to do with hides from cattle excluded from the food chain when the OCDS scheme for cattle born before August 1, 1996, was introduced in January, 2006.

Tanneries are not prepared to fully process the hides until a decision has been made because some by-products from tanning are sold into the food industry.

Industry sources say the hides are perfectly good for leather production but warn that, if clearance is not given, some hides treated with a chrome dye will be unsuitable for incineration for environmental reasons.