12 June 1998
BSE cattle cull ‘threat to wildlife’

A SHORTAGE of beef cattle as a result of the BSE crisis is threatening wildlife habitats and landscapes, English Nature said.

The unfussy eating habits of beef cattle kept grasslands and marshes healthy and were far better for the countryside than grazing by sheep, horses or even dairy cows, the Governments conservation watchdog said.

It called on Government to offer subsidies so that herds are kept on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), so that farmers did not switch to more intensive types of agriculture such as cropping.

The number of cattle in England and Wales has fallen from 13.2 million in the early 1980s to 11.6m, of which about one-sixth are beef cattle.

The decline is not entirely down to BSE. A long-term decline in beef eating and structural changes encouraged by Europes common agricultural policy have contributed.

  • The Guardian 12/06/98 page 13