BSE in sheep – answers imminent

5 October 2001

BSE in sheep – answers imminent

By Alistair Driver and Shelley Wright

FARMERS should find out in the coming fortnight whether or not mad cow disease has jumped from cattle to sheep.

The governments Spongiform Encepalopathy Advisory Committee, is due to meet on 19 October to discuss results from two recently completed trials.

Its conclusions will be passed to the Food Standards Agency, which will consider the findings and make any recommendations on 22 October.

Producers are worried by Animal Health Minister Elliot Morleys suggestion that the national sheep flock could be slaughtered if BSE is found.

One farmer, who asked not to be named, suggested that Mr Morley was using this worst-case scenario as a way of “softening people up” to bad news.

“I dont think we will be looking at eradication of the entire flock, but I expect bad news,” he said.

But National Farmers Union president Ben Gill said he was “relatively relaxed” about the outcome of the BSE in sheep experiments.

“One of the trials has involved looking at the brains of about 170 sheep killed in the past year or so,” Mr Gill said.

“No sign of BSE has been found, which is very good news.”

The other trial, using sheep brains from the early 1990s, was unlikely to be credible, because of potential contamination with cattle brain tissue.


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