Minister to demand more beef exports
By Isabel Davies and Shelley Wright
BRITAIN will demand a relaxation of rules governing beef exports – despite the discovery of a BSE-infected animal which raised new fears about the disease.
A dairy animal was confirmed with BSE despite being born after controls designed to reduce the disease were introduced in 1996, it emerged last week.
The revelation was made by agriculture minister Nick Brown. It heightened fears in the media that the disease can be passed from cow to calf in the womb.
The infected calf was the first case of BSE in an animal born after a ban on feed containing meat and bonemeal became effective on 1 August, 1996.
But Mr Brown has now insisted he will not be deterred from seeking a relaxation from Brussels to the rules of Britains Date-Based Export Scheme.
The scheme allows meat from animals born after August 1996 to be exported, provided it is from designated plants dedicated to processing beef for export.
Mr Brown said the new BSE case should encourage rather than deter the French government from lifting their ongoing ban on British beef.
Detection of the animal showed that BSE surveillance in Britain was very thorough, Mr Brown told reporters at the Royal Show on Monday (3 July).
“If anything this incident ought to convince the [French] to lift their ban,” he told a Farmers Weekly reporter during a press conference.
“Last weeks discovery if anything confirms my confidence in the public protection measures we currently have in place and in our surveillance systems.”
The changes that the government is seeking, including allowing very young animals to be exported on the bone, would not be affected, he added.
The government hopes to submit a proposal to Brussels seeking a relaxation on the restrictions currently impeding beef exports by the end of the summer.
Ross Finnie, Scotlands rural affairs minister, said the issue was high on the agenda when he met other British farm ministers about a fortnight ago.
“We agreed the need to develop a strategy to relax the date-based export scheme,” Mr Finnie said.
Farmers leaders and the meat trade have been demanding action for months, insisting that the schemes current rules are unnecessarily rigid.
Don Curry, chairman of the Meat and Livestock Commission, said clearance to export bone-in beef would be a huge boost, especially for the Scottish beef industry.
Mr Curry said it had developed an excellent reputation for bone-in beef around the world before the export ban was introduced in 1996.
- Backlash feared over new BSE case, FWi, 30 June, 2000
- BSE case revives mother-to-calf fears, FWi, 29 June, 2000