30 July 1997
BSE cull backlog ahead of compensation cut
THE National Farmers Union and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) blamed changes to the BSE cattle culling programme for a sudden increase in animals awaiting slaughter.
Welsh farming leaders estimated a backlog of about 30,000 animals because producers have been rushing them to the slaughterhouse in anticipation of an 11% cut in compensation payments from next Monday. The cut coincides with the halving of the number of abattoirs in England and Wales operating the scheme to 22. There are just two now operating it in Wales.
The culling programme removes cattle older than 30 months from the food chain.
The RSPCA called on the government to reconsider the changes because it fears all incentives to keep cull animals in good condition while awaiting slaughter have been removed.
Agriculture minister Dr Jack Cunningham said in a written Commons answer that the increase had been caused by farmers rushing to kill older cattle. It had nothing to do with the reduction in abattoir numbers. The Intervention Board had temporarily upped slaughtering capacity by 20%.
The cost of the BSE crisis is now estimated at more than £3.5bn.