12 April 1996

BSEslaughter call rejected by union

By Tony McDougal

CALLS for the slaughter of all herds with new cases of BSE to ease consumer fears and end the worldwide ban on British beef exports have been aired byagricultural economist Sean Rickard.

Mr Rickard, head of food research at Cranfield University, said the combination of a prominent slaughter scheme coupled with continued support from the main supermarkets would help restore public confidence.

But his call was rejected by NFU deputy president, Ben Gill, who told conference delegates at the Three Counties Showground that any wholesale culling of herds would not reduce the incidence of BSE or be acceptable to dairy farmers.

Mr Rickard claimed the rapid reduction in the number of BSE cases would mean there is likely to be between 3000-4000 cases this year. He was optimistic that the sharp downward trend would continue and that Britain could be free of the disease by 2000.

With the average dairy herd size standing at 68 head, the total number of animals involved in the culling would amount to 272,000 plus progeny, even if, as would be highly unlikely, all cases came from different herds.

He valued the cost of such a scheme at £550m, saying the government should provide full compensation for the slaughter of the herd and for a period afterwards to allow the farmer to rebuild his herd.

Mr Gill gave details of the compensation package for a selective slaughter policy outlined by the Council of Farm Ministers in Luxembourg last week.

Farmers culling animals over 30 months old are to receive 85.5p/kg liveweight (£1.70p/kg deadweight), while Mr Gill argued that the optional calf slaughter scheme – which pays farmers £103 an animal – would help cut the huge loss of the export market.

But he was not upbeat about an early end to the worldwide ban, saying the massive slump in beef consumption across Europe with its shattered consumer confidence would need time to heal.