1 March 1996

Respect launch meat smear campaign

A NEW campaign to end live calf exports has been denounced by junior farm minister Angela Browning as "offensive and extremely mischievous."

Animal rights group Respect began targeting European veal consumers at the weekend with leaflets warning of the risks of contracting the brain condition Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD) from British calves.

A quarter of a million leaflets were distributed in Paris with the line: "Are the French mad? You soon could be…. and dead!" The leaflet, which has been sent to MPs and MEPs in all the main veal-eating countries, claimed British restaurants, schools and hospitals are refusing to serve beef because they believed CJD may be caused by eating beef products contaminated with BSE.

"Britain has imposed stringent laws to prevent certain parts of calves entering the human food chain because of the risk. In France there are no such laws. In spite of this France still imports approximately 200,000 calves from British dairy herds each year to be reared as French veal," the leaflet stated. Versions in Italian, German, and Dutch will follow.

Mrs Browning described the campaign as "quite beyond the pale." There was no scientific justification for the groups claims. "Their agenda is very clear and it is extremely mischievous to parade bogus scientific evidence as they have done," she added.

And she reacted angrily to allegations from retired neuropathologist Helen Grant that SEAC, the governments independent BSE advisory committee, was being gagged for political reasons.

"That suggestion is particularly offensive. The idea that eminent people would agree to sit on such a committee if they were going to be gagged is quite outrageous."

The European Commission regularly assessed BSE controls and has said that the measures taken by the UK were perfectly adequate. British beef posed no risk to human health Mrs Browning stressed.

The Meat and Livestock Commission attacked the campaign as "another attempt at consumer scaremongering," but it felt that French consumers would take no notice of the leaflets.

"It will be more of a headache for those cleaning up the litter in Paris than it is for the MLC," said an official.

Shelley Wright