19 April 1996

Hogg says no plans for mass cattle slaughter

ANY slaughter of herds affected by BSE is likely to be much more selective than originally feared.

That much was made clear by farm minister, Douglas Hogg, in the House of Commons this week when he said the government had no intention of introducing a mass slaughter policy.

MAFF has until the end of the month to come up with detailed proposals to submit to Brussels.

Such a lightweight scheme is unlikely to satisfy other member states farm ministers, who made it clear this week that MAFFs ideas did not go far enough.

But an assessment by the NFU shows that anything else would be far too costly, quickly outweighing the benefit of recapturing the UKs £520m a year beef export market.

The analysis draws the line at three different points – those herds with 5+, 10+ and 20+ cases.

As the threshold rises, so the number of herds covered falls. But it is also assumed that herds with more cases are typically bigger. On this basis, it is estimated that:

lCulling herds with 5+ cases would take out 27% of the dairy herd (702,000 animals).

lCulling herds with 10+ cases would take out 16% of the dairy herd (416,000 animals).

lCulling herds with 20+ cases would take out 7% of the dairy herd (182,000 animals).

Assuming a compensation rate of £900 a head (the current replacement cost) this would generate a bill of £632m at 5+ cases, £374m at 10+ cases and £163m at 20+ cases.

Colossal damage

But compensation is only half the story. The damage to the dairy industry would be colossal. Taking out even 7% of the herd at the 20+ cases threshold would expose the dairy market even more to overseas competition – particularly at the added value end – damaging the food trade deficit. It would also lead to further contraction and redundancies in the UK processing sector.

Then there is the cost of carcass disposal – currently estimated at between £100 and £130 a cow. None of the disposal cost would be recovered from Brussels.

And even though the commission is likely to pick up 70% of any compensation costs, once the UKs annual rebate has been reduced, the actual split will be 35:65 against the UK. &#42