Ministers considered culling whole national herd

21 October 1998

Ministers considered culling whole national herd

MINISTERS discussed slaughtering the entire national herd in 1990 – while in the same year the Governments most senior health advisor was reassuring the public about the safety of beef.

Keith Meldrum, the former chief veterinary officer, told the inquiry into bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) that, when the first cat was diagnosed with the disease, the then agriculture minister John MacGregor considered wholesale slaughter.

But Sir Donald Acheson, the chief medical officer at the Department of Health, issued a statement at the time saying there was no risk to public health.

The inquiry has also been told that a measure to protect against “mad cow” disease, the banning of specified bovine offals (SBOs), was introduced only after the Government realised the petfood industry was planning to bring in the same precaution to safeguard cat and dog food.

Department of Health officials feared an SBO ban would draw attention to “the problem of pharmaceuticals” also being made with bovine material.

The ban was introduced despite continuing opposition from the Department of Health.

The agriculture ministry said last night it was considering a request by the BSE inquiry to disclose an internal ministry report after its existence was revealed on Monday this week.

The “North report” was prepared by ministry officials in 1996 to assess the needs of any future public inquiry into the crisis. The Ministry of Agriculture said the report could not be disclosed because it was commissioned under the previous Conservative Government.

See more