Selective cull shelved in wake of BSEreport
By Shelley Wright
MAFF has shelved its planned selective cull of 127,000 cattle after a review published in the science journal Nature provoked a storm of protest over the policy.
An official said ministers had not signed the orders to allow tracing of cattle to begin, and urgent discussions with the EU Commission were now underway.
The report found the BSE epidemic "is likely to fade close to extinction by 2001" without a cull. And it highlighted more efficient options to accelerate the rate of decline of BSE (see page 10).
Gerard Kiely, spokesman for farm commissioner Franz Fischler, said this week that the review jeopardised the deal, agreed by heads of government in Florence in June, for a phased lifting of the beef export ban. Hopes for any relaxation of the ban had been set back because the UK was now under intense domestic pressure to renegotiate, or abandon its planned cull of 127,000 cattle, Mr Kiely said.
But he warned that if the UK did not enforce some form of cull, and waited until 2001 for BSE to die out, then the commission would have to look very closely at its 70% contribution to the UKs 30-month disposal scheme.
Francis Anthony, spokesman for the British Veterinary Association, said if the Florence agreement collapsed the BVA would be delighted, because it would mean that the selective cull could be abandoned. "We cannot condone the slaughter of thousands of healthy cattle for no reason other than to appease politicians," he said.
Country Landowners Association president, Ewen Cameron, described it as "economic insanity" to go ahead with an accelerated slaughter scheme when it would have only a minimal effect on the rate of decline of BSE.
Ben Gill, NFU deputy president, said the new statistics proved that there was no scientific justification for the selective cull. "But the problem we have is consumer confidence and politicians say the best way to address that is to eradicate the disease more quickly."
And NFU leader Sir David Naish said nothing must be done to jeopardise the lifting of the ban.
Mr Kiely insisted that the Commission was not interested in how many cattle were culled – all it cared about was reducing the incidence of BSE in the UK.
The EUs two veterinary committees met today (Fri) to discuss BSE. But, Mr Kiely stressed it was likely to take many meetings before any progress could be made.
lNFU leader, Sir David Naish, and junior farm minister Tony Baldry met NFU county chairmen on Wednesday, as farmers weekly went to press. *