10 September 1998
Market unhurt by BSE-in-sheep scare

By FW Livestock reporters

DESPITE the anger and panic that swept the sheep industry earlier this week, comments from one of the governments advisers about BSE jumping from cattle to sheep caused neither a slump in market prices nor any negative reaction from Brussels.

Farming unions, politicians and the government reacted swiftly to dismiss the suggestion from Jeff Almond, one of the scientists on the governments BSE advisory committee SEAC, that there was a “distinct possibility” that the disease had transferred to the national flock.

Chief Medical Officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, and MAFF immediately pointed out that the latest advice from SEAC, after its last meeting at the end of July, was that, at present, there was no need to recommend further action to protect public or animal health.

Judging from MAFFs response, Professor Almond, who was recently appointed chairman of SEACs newly formed sheep committee, may have damaged his credibility as a government adviser.

 

Ben Gill, NFU president, added: “The health of consumers must always come first, but we must not be influenced by non-existent evidence.”

Both the Lib-Dem and Conservative Parties condemned Professor Almonds unfounded comments, which Richard Livsey, Lib-Dem MP for Brecon and Radnorshire described as “irresponsible scaremongering by a scientist who should have known better”.

While sheep prices remained steady, Remi Fourier, director of British Meats Paris office, said he believed Prof Almonds comments would not cause any problems for British sheep exports or with the anticipated resumption of the trade in ewe carcasses.

 
Industry figures reacted swiftly to refute suggestions of BSE in the UK flock

And the EU Commission said it had no plans to take any action on the back of the British Press reports.

“We know from the findings of SEAC last July that the possibility exists,” said a spokesman. “But there is no evidence at all that there is actually a problem; it has never been scientifically proven.”