23 June 2000
Europe to ban livestock burials

By Shelley Wright and Philip Clarke

BURYING fallen stock, including dead lambs and piglets, on farms is set to be outlawed from 31 January, 2003.

The ban, included in the European Unions new animal by-products regulations, means all dead stock will have to be removed from farms.

Approved centres will handle disposal of dead animals at an estimated 50 million a year cost to the UK industry.

The Scottish NFU and rural affairs minister Ross Finnie are pushing for derogations from the ban for those farming in remote areas of Scotland.

Craig Campbell, Scottish NFU senior policy adviser, said the union also wanted an exemption for sheep farmers at lambing time.

The union will also press for on-farm burial to continue in areas where there is no risk to watercourses, but officials admit that the chances of success are low.

“In most other EU member states, some or all the costs of fallen stock disposal are currently met from public spending,” said Mr Campbell.

That is the case in France, where animals are collected by the knacker man through a public service. Consumers pick up the bill through a tax on meat.

Dead cattle over two years old must also be inspected by a vet, paid for by the French government, as part of the new BSE testing programme.

On-farm burial is also strictly prohibited in the Netherlands, though there farmers have to meet the cost of disposal.

A new rule, banning the use of fallen stock in meat and bonemeal production, means this charge is set to rise.

But while knacker men are readily available on the continent, that is not the case in the UK, where many were forced out of business after the BSE crisis.

The Scottish NFU is keen to see a national collection service established, believing that it is better for dead stock to be removed rather than buried on farms.

The union has explored with the Scottish Executive whether cash for such a scheme could come from the new rural development budget.

One Scottish Executive official said that, apart from in exceptional circumstances, fallen stock should be sent to knackers or hunt kennels.

But he conceded that many farmers would be burying dead animals on farms.

“We are holding talks with the industry to see how we can deal with waste management in the future.

The minister is pretty keen on the idea of a national collection scheme but there are problems to be overcome, not least how it would be funded,” he said.