31 July 1997
Hope raised of end to NI beef export ban
A CABINET battle is thought to be brewing over plans to push for Northern Ireland to be the first region to win exemption from the European Unions ban on UK beef exports. Agriculture minister Dr Jack Cunningham risks incurring the wrath of cabinet members representing Scotland and Wales.
It is unlikely the ban would be lifted in one go. Northern Ireland has low incidence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). It also has a computerised cattle database to trace animal movements.
Some officials believe the ban could be lifted within 12 months, paving the way for removal in other parts of the UK.
Dr Cunningham is also preparing proposals on lifting the ban on cattle born after August 1 last year. This would eventually ensure beef could be exported from all of the UK.
The government announced it would set up a database by next April – a computerised British Cattle Movement Service based in Workington, Cumbria. The privatised system will record 40m cattle movements each year.
Dr Cunningham added that the government was close to finalising a cull to destroy the offspring of cows that succumb to BSE