Euro-vets put block on beef ban movement

6 March 1998

Euro-vets put block on beef ban movement

EUROPEAN vets have again blocked plans for a partial lifting of the beef export ban, failing to ratify the EU Commissions certified herd scheme in Brussels this week.

A vote on the scheme, which would apply to Northern Ireland only, was taken at Wednesdays meeting of the standing veterinary committee. But the vets failed to achieve the qualified majority needed for it to become law, with Germany, Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg all voting against.

"We doubt if the scheme is controllable," said one senior German official after the meeting. "When the UK export ban was first introduced two years ago, we had 700t of British beef coming into Germany. If it is not possible to control a total export ban, we ask if it is possible to control a partial one."

But all is not lost. The scheme will now pass to the next meeting of EU farm ministers on Mar 16 where, if countries vote the same way, the proposal will be adopted under simple majority rules.

"It is clear that there is a head of steam-building," said NFU president, Ben Gill, following a meeting with EU agriculture commissioner, Franz Fischler in Brussels. "There is every prospect of getting that simple majority in Council."

In a related issue, the vets also rejected commission plans to ban specified risk materials (SRMs) from the human food chain.

Latest proposals sought to extend the range of materials covered (to include vertebral column and dorsal root ganglia), while offering exemptions to countries with no history of BSE.

But this proved unacceptable, both to those countries already implementing controls (UK, France and Ireland) and to those seeking to avoid them (Germany, Austria and Finland). Some rapid redrafting will be required if the plan is to have any chance of success at the next council meeting in 10 days time.

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