17 July 1998

BSEbriefing from Ben Gill

NFU president Ben Gill went to Brussels yesterday (Thur) in a bid to correct many of the misunderstandings that still surround BSE.

He briefed the international media on the control measures taken in the UK, explained the proposed date-based export scheme, and highlighted the decline in the incidence of the disease in the past year.

The excellent track record of farmers, slaughterers, feed merchants and renderers in complying with often onerous and expensive new controls had been accepted not only by UK government officials but also by EU inspectors during their numerous visits to check that the safeguards were operating properly, Mr Gill pointed out.

His visit preceded the arrival of the latest EU inspection team, due in Britain before the end of the month. It will be looking specifically at whether the controls in place are sufficient to allow the beef export ban to be lifted for animals born after August 1, 1996 – the so-called date-based export scheme.

The team will then submit a report to the EU Standing Veterinary Committee, which will either vote on the proposal at its September or October meeting, or, more likely, refer the issue to the farm ministers council.

One of the potential stumbling blocks in the date-based proposal is that the cull of all offspring of cows that have developed BSE since Aug 1, 1996, must be completed before the scheme can operate. British government officials have argued that unless the wording is changed then the ban will stay in place for as long as any BSE cases are reported.

According to MAFF this week, the offspring cull, expected to involve about 12,000 cattle, will not start until the date-based scheme has been agreed in Brussels.