18 September 1997
NFU "welcomes" ruling from Euro vets
By Boyd Champness
THE National Farmers Union said today it “welcomed” a report handed down by European Union veterinary experts which has given the UK beef industry a flicker of hope that the beef ban might be lifted.
The Scientific Veterinary Committee handed down its report on the UK Governments revised certified herd scheme yesterday.
It said the ban could possibly be lifted in Northern Ireland – because it has an “adequate” computerised herd tracing system – but could not recommend an early lifting throughout the rest of Great Britain until a similar system was in place.
But NFU president Sir David Naish avoided questions as to whether the union would support an early lifting of the ban in Northern Ireland – which would exclude farmers throughout the rest of the UK.
The NFU has always maintained that British beef is safe and would like to see the ban lifted across the board, rather than in stages.
It is the Governments second stab at the certified herd scheme, designed to allay European fears about British beef and bring an end to the ban imposed 18 months ago. The first scheme was knocked back by the committee in June for being inadequate.
However, Sir David said he was particularly heartened by the last paragraph in the reports conclusion, which said the committee was aware that the UK was preparing a separate proposal based on animals born after a particular date.
“The committee welcomes and encourages this development,” the report said.
The Government is still working on its “born-after” proposal – which could possibly supersede the certified herd scheme – but has not yet set a date on when it will take it to the committee.
NFU delegates will raise the born-after issue when they meet with European Union Commissioner Franz Fischler in Brussels tonight.
The Government is proposing to get the beef ban lifted for cattle born after August 1, 1996, which is the date when all meat and bone meal was banned from animal feed.
Scientists believe that the feeding of ground-up meat and bone meal to cattle is what caused the BSE crisis in the first place.