Beef heads agenda at Fischler meeting
By Shelley Wright
NFU president, Ben Gill, was due to meet EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, today (Friday); the need to get the beef ban lifted was at the top of the agenda.
Mr Gill said the recent discussions by EU advisers on the UKs certified herd scheme and date-based scheme would be addressed.
And he said he would be seeking clarification from Mr Fischler about recent moves by eight member states who insist they should be classified as BSE-free and, therefore, exempt from the EU-wide specified risk material rules that were due to take effect from April, but have now been delayed again.
Mr Gill said he understood the concerns about additional costs being imposed on the meat industries in those member states. That was something the UK was well aware of. But a number of factors suggested that SRM rules had to be EU-wide. First, BSE could easily be confused with other diseases, so cases might not be reported. Even in the UK, which had the greatest diagnostic expertise, only 75% of cattle slaughtered as BSE-suspects turned out to have the disease.
Another reason was the theory, gaining support, that BSE did not come from sheep in the first place. Rather, it was present at low levels in all cattle populations across the world, with cases of the disease so few and far between in many countries that BSE was not considered.
The European single market also meant there had to be common SRM rules because of the large cross-border movements of livestock both into and within the community. For that reason, having some countries imposing SRM rules while others did not would make a mockery of the single market, Mr Gill said.