|6.24.96||Farmer describes horror at seeing the birth of BSE||6.13.96||Euro vets withhold approval||6.21.96||Roast is 'part of British psyche'||6.21.96||European Parliament questions deal|
|6.21.96||Florence deal denounced as 'fig-leaf'||6.13.96||European vets want more cattle killed|
|6.21.96||Smithfield meat porters go under||6.21.96||EU moves step closer to easing beef ban|
|6.21.96||Culled cows: farmers want more money||6.21.96||BSE and animal feed in France ... opinions|
|6.15.96||Tony Boycott by French consumers union||6.20.96||Wider beef cull demanded|
|6.20.96||Mad cows won't block single currency||6.20.96||France takes harder line on beef ban|
|6.20.96||Beef deal makes many unhappy||6.20.96||Texas drough: cattle loss of $794 million|
|6.14.96||Scientific warnings ignored||6.13.96||Britain dumps tainted animal feeds on other countries|
Tom Forsyth with the Holstein Friesian herd:|
"We had got something that seemed to be out of control"
Photograph: ADRIAN SHERRATT
BY MICHAEL HORNSBY, AGRICULTURE CORRESPONDENT
The Times: Britain:June 24 1996
THE manager of the farm where "mad cow" disease was first identified has spoken publicly for the first time of his horror as he watched a mysterious illness in one cow turn into a national disaster. Eleven years ago, at Plurenden Manor Farm near High Halden, Kent, Tom Forsyth and his head dairy stockman first noted the symptoms later to be diagnosed as BSE.
He said: "Looking back over the years since then, horror is the only word to decribe my feelings horror that we had got something that seemed to be out of control. We did not know where it was coming from and we did not know how to put it right. Even now the origin of the disease is still not known for certain."
In April 1985 a cow called Jonquil started behaving oddly. The stockman, John Green, was in charge of the herd of 300 Holstein Friesians. Now retired, he said: "From being a nice quiet cow, she had turned into a nuisance in the milk parlour, acting aggressively towards the other cows. She seemed to hallucinate."
The men's first thought was that the cow might be suffering from "grass staggers", which can affect cattle after they are turned out to lush grass in the spring. Caused by a shortage of magnesium in the bloodstream, it is characterised by shivering and staggering, symptoms superficially similar to those of BSE.
The cow did not respond to the usual treatment. Colin Whitaker, the local cattle vet, found she had cystic ovaries. He said: "I treated the ovaries, which got better, but the cow did not. She got worse and was very unsteady on her feet. I thought she might have a brain tumour or abscess."
Eventually the animal was put down. For six months or more, no similar cases appeared. Mr Forsyth hoped that the condition was one of the unexplained curiosities farmers encounter from time to time. Then, at the start of 1986, several more cows went down with identical symptoms.
Mr Forsyth realised he was dealing with something new and frightening. He said: "With our vet, we considered a whole range of possible causes, from lead poisoning to rabies, but nothing made sense."
The decision was taken to alert the Ministry of Agriculture. For the first time, in November 1986, pathologists at the Central Veterinary Laboratory at Weybridge, Surrey, diagnosed an encephalopathy similar to scrapie in sheep. This has led to the hypothesis that BSE had been caused by cattle feed containing sheep remains.
Mr Forsyth said: "It was hard to believe that a scrapie-like disease could have passed to cattle. Sheep had had scrapie for centuries and had been living together with cattle without any problems. Farmers had been including meat and bone meal in cattle rations since the 1920s."
Since 1986, he has seen "many" cows on his farm go down with BSE he declines to give an exact number among a toll of 160,000 across the nation. As many as 146 of his 300 dairy cows could be lost under the new cull agreed by Britain at the Florence summit. This will target cattle regarded as being at special risk of developing BSE because they were reared alongside animals that have since died of the disease.
Plurenden Manor Farm is still flourishing. It is part of R. Sternberg Farms, an amalgamation of several holdings covering more than 4,000 acres, on about 3,000 of which arable crops are grown. The business is owned by the family of the late Lord Plurenden of High Halden, a German-born entrepreneur and refugee from the Nazis, who was a close friend of Sir Harold Wilson. He was created a life peer in 1975 and served for a time as chairman of the British Agricultural Export Council.
JOHN MAJOR invoked the spirit of roast beef yesterday in a signed article for the conservative Madrid daily ABC.
In a long and elegant essay entitled "A solution for the beef crisis", the Prime Minister said Britain could not tolerate such an attack on its national interests as the worldwide ban on its beef exports.
The beef industry, Mr Major wrote, "is a part of the psyche of our nation". He said: "For Germany, forests play a special part in her national life. For France, it is her language and cultural traditions. For Britain, our seas and 'the roast beef of Old England' matter more deeply than the simple, bald, economic figures say."
He insisted that "free trade is a fundamental principle of the European Union which cannot be set aside without very good reason". The EU beef ban "was a disproportionate reaction unjustified by science, which has unsettled beef markets across Europe".
There were four elements to the beef crisis, he wrote: "Animal health, public health, consumer confidence and politics." The EU had banned beef exports "because these four issues have become jumbled up. Our task is to separate them and make sure we have sensible solutions for each of them ... consumer confidence is not a basis for banning trade but I accept that it is important."
Ending his article on a conciliatory note, Mr Major said that at the Florence summit he would be "very willing to listen to the ideas which our partners bring to the table" so that a framework for agreement could be constructed. He concluded: "For that is how Europe works: with goodwill by all."
The porters, self-employed and consequently not entitled to redundancy, are all members of the Transport and General Workers Union. They are allowed to work in the market under a licence granted by the Corporation of London. Only those nominated by the union are given a licence and they guard their closed shop closely. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is an honorary member.
"The market is an area the trade union legislation of Margaret Thatcher never dared to enter," according to Peter Martinelli, a meat trader and member of the City council. "This deal is a golden opportunity to end all that and start a new age for Smithfield," he said.
The porters, who are divided into specialist groups of pullers-back, pitchers, shunters, cartminders and bummarees, have been handling meat in the same way as their Victorian forefathers. The pullers-back drag the carcasses to the tailboards of the incoming vehicles. The pitchers carry goods from the tailboards and pitch them into the market. The shunters move the lorries and the bummarees have the exclusive right to carry the meat from the market butcher to the buyer's vehicle. They are paid a penny for each pound of meat they shift and, with around 2,500 tonnes of meat going through each week, can earn up to £50,000 a year.
EU regulations came into force three years ago requiring all meat to be handled mechanically and forbidding porters from tossing carcasses over their shoulders or onto trolleys. The Corporation, which owns the markets and has a statutory duty to provide them, launched a £60 million refurbishment of the Grade II listed Victorian halls, equipping them with overhead rails to transport carcasses. Although work on the first hall was completed last year, it is still not in use because of the difficulty in making the porters accept that they are redundant.
The Corporation recruited Dennis Boyd, who had been chief conciliation officer at ACAS for 12 years, to help. He had 59 meetings with the porters and the Smithfield Market Traders Association over nearly two years and said that the negotiaions proved the most complicated in which he had been involved. As recently as last month he had made little progress.
In the end he advised that the only way out was for the Corporation to pay redundancy money, even though the porters were not entitled to it. Even those over retirement age were to be offered £8,000 each. Others would receive up to £20,000. About 30 bummarees, who will run the overhead system, will keep their jobs. The traders, anxious to move into the refur bished hall, agreed to pay 40 per cent of the bill. A final meeting with the pitchers at 4am yesterday clinched the deal.
"This is a necessary step for the Corporation to win back control of its own market," Nicholas Anstee, the market committee chairman, told the Corporation's Court of Common Council at its meeting yesterday. "Frankly, it is the best that can be achieved by negotiation and if we fail to accept it this will lead to a strike and to possible closure."
Richard Scriven, chairman of the finance committee which must find the money, was outraged. "We are being blackmailed and in my opinion this is not a suitable use of public funds," he said. But having been warned again that the market was in jeopardy if the deal was refused, he voted with the rest of the court to accept it.
Tom O'Driscoll, the TGWU markets officer, said: "This is the end of an era and a lot of these people will not know what to do now because all they have ever done is work.
"They are tough men who have worked hard in appalling conditions for decades. They deserve every penny they are being offered."
FARMERS demanded full compensation yesterday for any extra cull of cattle ordered by the Government as part of a deal to lift the European Union's export ban on British beef.
Contrary to claims by Downing Street that only "clapped-out old milkers" would be affected by the cull, they said thousands of high-value dairy cows in the prime of life would be destroyed.
The Ministry of Agriculture conceded yesterday that potentially up to 147,000 animals could be affected by the cull, which is designed to remove animals identified as being at particular risk of developing "mad cow" disease.
Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, told the Commons yesterday that farmers would be given "significantly higher" compensation than the £480 they receive for each cow under the existing slaughter scheme for animals over 30 months old. The cost of the eradication programme so far has been £190 million and Mr Hogg predicted that figure would rise to £1.5 billion over the next three years. Tony Tapper, the Nottinghamshire secretary of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), calculates that under the new cull he could be facing the loss of 80 of the 250 dairy cows he keeps on his 2,000-acre Kingston Farm near Newark. He estimates that each animal could cost up to £3,000 to replace a total bill of £240,000.
"There will be many others worse affected than me," he said. "It will be devastating if we do not get proper compensation for our animals, many of which are in the prime of life with several years of milking still left in them."
Since 1988, Mr Tapper has lost 40 cows to BSE. He has received the standard compensation rate for these animals of about £630 each. That has covered about two thirds of the cost of replacement.
As a dairy farmer, he has not suffered too much from the ban on selling cattle older than 30 months for food. He can keep his dairy cows for milk production until they would be slaughtered anyway. Under the new cull, however, Mr Tapper would be forced to kill much younger cows. "I reckon that 45 of the 80 cows I would lose would be between only four and five years old," he said. "These have at least four more years of milk and calf production in them. Each cow produces about £1,850 worth of milk a year.
"It is nonsense for Heseltine to say only a handful of cows would be affected and that most would be old and close to slaughter anyway."
The idea is to trace and destroy any cattle that were born at the same time and on the same farms as the 162,000 animals, nearly all from dairy herds, that have died of BSE. Farmers like Mr Tapper, who have had a significant number of BSE cases spread over several years, will thus be particularly badly hit.
The vast majority of the cattle killed under the new cull would be perfectly healthy. Ministry officials estimated earlier this month that only about 1,450 out of 80,000 at-risk animals culled would have gone on to develop BSE.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas cattle producers lost almost $794 million through May because of a drought that increased feeding costs and forced ranchers to slaughter hundreds of thousands of head of cattle, the state's comptroller said.
The slaughters forced ranchers to sell into a market that already has an oversupply of beef, Texas Comptroller John Sharp said. The state had a relatively dry winter and spring, extending a drought that in some parts of Texas has gone on for almost three years.
''One industry official said he can't remember when so many things were out of kilter at the same time,'' Sharp said in a news release. ''Cattle ranchers are working hard to weather these factors until the outlook for prices improves.''
Consumers haven't fully benefited from falling beef prices, Sharp said. While wholesale beef prices dropped by a third from their 1993 peak, retail prices fell only 7 percent, Sharp said.
The price disparity led farmers and ranchers to complain to state officials that meatpackers use anti-competitive practices to keep wholesale costs low, the comptroller said. He proposed an electronic pricing network to ensure that cattle ranchers obtain fair prices and will study whether the state should require arms-length relationships among feeding, producing and processing sectors of the cattle industry.
Texas' Agriculture Department said a major investigation of buying practices by meatpackers in Kansas failed to turn up any evidence of price manipulation.
LAMBERTO DINI, the Italian Foreign Minister, yesterday said his country would not allow the row over "mad cow" disease to disrupt today's Florence summit at the expense of European integration and "irreversible" progress toward a single currency.
"John Major should by now have sufficient reassurance that we are on our way to agreement over British beef," he said. Signor Dini and Professor Romano Prodi, the Italian Prime Minister, would meet Mr Major and Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, early today to try to ensure that Britain did not push all other business aside.
Signor Dini appeared confident and relaxed, joking that he would offer Mr Major and other European Union leaders bistecca fiorentina, the thick, charcoal-grilled steak specialty of Florence, his home town. "I am sure they will love it," he said with a broad grin.
The Foreign Minister, a former central banker and international economist who was caretaker Prime Minister for the first four months of the year, is more experienced in international affairs than Signor Prodi, the mild-mannered economics professor who steered his Centre-Left coalition to victory in April's election.
Signor Dini and Signor Prodi are pinning their hopes for a smooth end to Italy's EU presidency on the framework agreement and Britain's latest concessions on slaughtering cattle. "I do not believe the British will engage in boycotts and disrupt the meeting in Florence," he said in an interview in his Rome office before leaving for Florence. "It just doesn't make sense. The issue has already been overtaken by events." Signor Dini said that job creation and monetary union were at the top of the Florence agenda. "Monetary union is a historic step, and we cannot afford to fail. It must be an irreversible move, and there must be no watering down of the Maastricht criteria for joining the single currency."
Signor Dini said: "BSE will not dominate the summit, neither will it disrupt it. 'Mad cow' disease is not a political issue. It is a health issue which has political consequences."
Substantial progress had been made in the past few days on the British position, taking into account the views of the EU scientific committee, the veterinary committee and the new multi-disciplinary committee.
British beef exports to non-EU "third countries" remained a problem, but the agreement on how to proceed with slaughtering was "an important step forward".
Signor Dini insisted that neither Italy's temporary political chaos nor "mad cow" disease had been a major impediment to Italy's hand ling of EU business. Britain's policy of non-cooperation had been a "hindrance", but had been applied in a selective manner in recent weeks. "My strong expectation is that Britain will take a co-operative attitude to the items on the Florence agenda."
He said that Italy, which hands over the presidency to Ireland on July 1, had succeeded in launching the inter-governmental conference (IGC) in Turin in March, even though it was overshadowed by "mad cow" disease. The IGC agenda on reforming Maastricht deals with the powers of EU institutions, cross-border issues such as immigration, employment and Europol, and common foreign and defence policy.
He said Italy had been able to keep foreign policy on track by holding two summits on Bosnia, and had identified areas for compromise for a draft IGC treaty later this year. "We are on our way," he said. "We are creating a new Europe for the year 2000."
Signor Dini said he and Mr Major had agreed on the mechanism for regulating the relationship between those inside the single currency and those outside it; the "ins and outs". He expected the lira to rejoin the exchange-rate mechanism soon, perhaps by the autumn, to prepare for Italian membership of the single currency.
The lira had shown strength and stability since the Centre-Left Government was formed, and inflation had fallen. The Prodi administration has outlined spending cuts of £6.5 billion to reduce the budget deficit without, so far, arousing the discontent that has hit France and Germany.
JOHN MAJOR flew to Italy last night claiming he was hours away from a deal to end the beef crisis. But he faced charges at home that he had been humiliated and routed and from his fellow leaders that his tactics had damaged the European Union.
The Prime Minister arrived in Florence for the two-day summit ready to accept the broad outlines of the Brussels plan put forward to end the four-week-old "beef war". He will indicate today that he will end the British policy of non-cooperation if the summit approves the plan for a stage-by-stage raising of the beef ban and if it makes plain that it is ready to do so without conditions in the final communiqué tomorrow afternoon.
One of Britain's key remaining demands, which Mr Major will press for today, is for a lifting of the ban on exports to third countries. As fellow leaders arrived at the summit it was by no means certain that Mr Major would get a clear run. There were indications that Germany might insist on tighter political control of the ban-lifting process. Mr Major would be forced to oppose such a move and a senior German diplomat said last night: "Don't bet on a deal."
Even so there was a mood of greater optimism that one of the most unhappy periods in recent EU history might be coming to an end. Professor Romano Prodi, the Italian Prime Minister and summit chairman, said: "The worst is over."
French officials said President Chirac could live with the Commission approach.
Mr Major left behind him a deeply dissatisfied Tory party and a farming industry furious at the Government's decision to increase the cull programme to cover tens of thousands more animals born in 1989.
In a move to placate them the Government announced that they would get a "significantly" higher level of compensation for cows in that category than the £480 given for those slaughtered under the blanket destruction of cattle aged over 30 months. Downing Street estimates that only an additional 25,000 cows would have to be slaughtered before the end of their working lives as the result of the new cull.
The Ministry of Agriculture is now negotiating with the National Farmers' Union and the European Commission over the size of compensation payments.
MPs were despondent that the Government had been forced to make further concessions on the slaughter of cattle without getting a firm timetable for the lifting of the ban, although Mr Major said he hoped it could start in the autumn. Tory MPs were angry but resigned.
The Liberal Democrats will attempt to exploit Tory differences in an all-day debate on the beef crisis which they have called for next Tuesday.
Before leaving London Mr Major was subjected to a withering attack from Tony Blair, the Labour leader. During a fierce question time clash Mr Blair said Mr Major was so desperate to extract himself from the mess he had got Britain into that he would settle for anything. He pointed out that Mr Major had failed to secure lifting of the third country ban, there was no additional compensation and no timetable. "There is humiliation, there is ignominy in this deal. In fact it is not a deal, it is a rout," Mr Blair declared.
A defiant Mr Major defended his handling of the crisis. He said that for eight weeks after the ban was imposed nothing was offered by the rest of Europe. Now four weeks after the process of non-cooperation began agreement was close.
In television interviews before he set off for Florence an angry Mr Major insisted that "not a single extra cow" would be slaughtered under the new deal. He emphasised that the average age for a cow to be slaughtered was 6 years and 6 months so many of the estimated 67,000 cows now over 7 years old would have been killed anyway.
From Socialist Spokesman
18 June 1996
EU Socialists tonight set out key conditions for accepting a framework to lift the European Union ban on British beef exports following a decision by the European Commission.
The statement from the European Parliament's largest political group followed news that the European Commission had agreed to table proposals for lifting the ban subject to the British Government ending its policy of non-cooperation with the EU.
Socialist leader Pauline Green (Lab., London North) said: 'We welcome the framework if it is based on good, substantial, scientific evidence which guarantees two things -- first, that no BSE-infected meat can enter the food chain and secondly that a programme for the eradication of BSE is put into action.'
She added: 'These are the two things that are crucial to restore consumer confidence and to allay people's very genuine public health fears across Europe. 'The framework for lifting the ban can only be agreed if the British Government abandons its policy of non-cooperation in Europe. No half-measures, no ifs and buts -- no staged lifting of its policy of non-cooperation.
'Europe needs the 15 states to work together on its very real problems. The crisis created by the British Government's inept handling of BSE must now be ended for the good of Europe.'
BY CHARLES BREMNER AND ANDREW PIERCE
EU moves step closer to easing beef ban
The Times: Britain:June 19 1996
THE European Commission last night gave broad endorsement to a plan to defuse the British beef crisis, although resistance from several commissioners left details to be settled and boded ill for the prospects of a deal at the Florence summit on Friday.
The proposed framework for easing the export ban will be put to the European Parliament tomorrow. But it already contains steps that the Government considers too demanding and Downing Street reacted cautiously to suggestions of a breakthrough.
The Commission's plan rejects Britain's call for a quick exemption on exports to non-EU states and requires a selective cattle cull going back to animals born in 1989, a year earlier than that proposed by Britain. The EU's veterinary committee is also expected to seek a broader cull.
Commission sources were nevertheless confident that Britain would support the plan and urged the Government to end its policy of non-cooperation "in parallel" with the tabling of the proposed framework. Britain has said that it will automatically stop blocking EU business once agreement has been reached.
Several of the 20 commissioners were reported to be reluctant to endorse even the toughened version of the plan, arguing that Britain should do much more to convince Europe that its anti-BSE measures were effective. A German official depicted the commission paper as an exercise in "bending over backwards" to help Britain, and said: "They are certainly not going to get anything better than this, so they would be wise to take it."
Downing Street officials were, however, careful not to build up expectations. A spokeswoman said: "There has been a lot of hard negotiations going on and we are still talking. The hard negotiations will intensify in the run-up to Florence."
The Times: Opinion: June 19 1996
BSE and animal feed in France
Sir, In attacking Britain for allowing the export of infected animal feed after 1988 (report, June 14), French politicians have inadvertently highlighted the hitherto little-remarked scandal of France's own policy on BSE.
If the disease is transmitted through feed, and large quantities of contaminated feed were imported into France, it is inconceivable that France can only have suffered the 15 or so cases of BSE that have been officially notified. Further, the policy of slaughtering whole herds whenever a single case is reported clearly does not prevent infected meat from entering the food chain, since the long incubation period means that cattle from these herds may be sold and slaughtered before symptoms appear.
Whenever Country Life has spoken to the French Ministry of Agriculture they have been emphatic indeed heated in their assertion that there is no BSE in France. Consequently, they do not take any precautions against it. The brains, spinal column and other specified offals are not removed from slaughtered animals, as they are here.
If the French really do believe that BSE is a threat to humans, they have shown appalling insouciance about the danger posed by their own beef. It is hardly surprising that German consumers' confidence in beef has fallen. As a prominent German manufacturer of organic products told me, Germany has open borders with the other European nations and the German consumer is not convinced of the honesty of French farmers or the diligence of the French authorities.
It seems extraordinary that the European Union is not protecting its citizens by insisting on the removal of specified offals from cattle slaughtered in France. Until it does, surely the British Government should ban the import of pâté and other French products containing beef, on the grounds that France's safety measures do not match those in this country,
Editor, Country Life
Sir, You reported on Friday that there was outrage in France at the alleged failure of the European Commission to prevent the export of suspect animal feed from Britain in 1989.
The Commission raised the issue of the safety of animal feed in 1988, but was rebuffed by member states, including both Britain and France. It was not until 1994 that regulations were introduced at the European level. Many of us are angered by the efforts of member states, including our own, to scapegoat the Commission for their own mistakes and shortcomings.
House of Lords.
Sir, Your headline today, "Scientists find direct evidence for BSE link", simplifies and distorts. In fact the transmission of BSE to monkeys was achieved only by injecting material into their brains (not, by the way, the first time this has been done). There is no evidence that BSE can be transmitted orally into monkeys nor any proof of a link between BSE and CJD. There has been no rise in the normal incidence of CJD cases, even though evidence has been found of a different kind of CJD. Indeed, the number of cases of CJD actually came down last year.
But even if there were a link between BSE and CJD we have the strictest safeguards in the world in place. This is why the experts are able to assert that British beef is safe to eat. I am in favour of everybody being made aware of the facts on BSE because this is a matter of such understandable public concern. But the debate should be conducted on the basis of science, not sensationalism.
COLIN W. MACLEAN (Director General)
Meat and Livestock Commission,
Sir, Your headline today, "Britain may be frozen out of hostile EU", at least raises the prospect of our leaving by mutual consent. When we joined the EEC, was there anyone who believed that Brussels could decree that we should not send our beef to South Africa or other third countries even if they wanted it?
Such interference is monstrous. I warned the Commission at a meeting of the Beef Advisory Committee a month ago that their actions could turn the majority of UK citizens into Euro-sceptics. If this happens they will only have themselves to blame.
ANTHONY GORDON UK Member of EU Beef Advisory Committee
BY CHARLES BREMNER IN ROME
EU to demand wider cull in return for beef deal
June 18 1996 London Times
BRITAIN'S European partners laid down tough new demands over BSE yesterday, including a much wider cull of cattle, if John Major is to be granted a deal at the forthcoming Florence summit to end the "beef war". The foreign ministers of Germany, France and other countries, meeting in Rome, endorsed the conditions, which will be formally proposed by the European Commission today.
The Government made plain last night that it was considering calls for the slaughter of an additional 20,000 cattle to take the figure to 100,000. But the plan, which might face strong opposition from Tory Euro-sceptics, was being looked at only in the context of an overall agreement.
The move came as Tony Blair called on the Government to redouble its efforts to have the ban on beef exports lifted and signalled that Labour was preparing to withdraw its support for the non-cooperation policy. During a meeting with Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, in Bonn, Mr Blair argued that the Government should be pressing for both a timescale for the ban to be lifted and for extra compensation for the British slaughtering programme. He indicated that if Mr Major failed to achieve these objectives at the European summit in Florence, which starts on Friday, Labour would withdraw its support for the Government's policy.
EU ministers, weary and frustrated over Mr Major's non-cooperation policy, made clear that they were in no mood to offer anything that Mr Major could claim as a victory for his tactics. Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, rejected new calls to end the non-cooperation drive, but he also offered an inducement for accord at Florence in the form of a promise to give Britain's blessing to the long-stalled machinery for setting up Europol, the European police intelligence system.
The Commission's "framework" for the eventual lifting of the ban adds new conditions to Britain's original plan. It rejects Britain's wish for a rapid lifting of the global embargo on exports. The plan also goes well beyond Britain's offer of a selective cull of some 80,000 animals, dating back to those born since 1990. French officials were talking of a figure close to half a million, although the Commission's experts are only pressing for an extra 20,000 to be killed, and British officials said yesterday that ministers' minds were not closed on the latter proposal.
However, the culling programme will have to be approved by the Commons. It is clear that any plan to increase the figure would be bitterly resisted unless the Prime Minister can return from Florence with what Tory MPs would regard as a satisfactory deal. Under the Commission plan, powers of supervision would also be given to a new "super-committee" of experts from various disciplines. The Commission plan contains stringent scientific criteria for monitoring each stage of the eventual lifting. Jacques Santer, the Commission President, emphasised that the crisis could not be resolved "with a quick fix." The framework was not a timetable and agreement at Florence would not be legally binding.
June 18 1996 FROM BEN MACINTYRE IN PARIS
France takes harder line on beef ban
JOHN MAJOR's hopes of a swift end to the beef crisis suffered a serious setback last night when President Chirac of France reversed his sympathetic stance and promised to take a tougher line over Britain's "insufficiently rigorous" plan to eradicate BSE. The President assured French farmers that would tackle the consequences of the slump in beef consumption and his spokeswoman said he intended to take a firm line at the Florence summit on Friday and in advance of the next meeting of EU agriculture ministers. Britain is expected to veto the summit's business.
CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS
Euro Commission accused of keeping warning secret
June 14 1996
THE European Commission, under mounting pressure on the Continent to defend its support for Britain in the BSE crisis, last night denied that it suppressed a warning from its own scientists in early March that mad cow disease could be transmitted to human beings.
The report, in Le Monde, said the Commission's food science committee said on March 8 that "the risk of human contamination by tissue infected with BSE still exists". It said the Commission's agriculture directorate had applied "very strong pressure" to prevent it delivering the opinion.
The report, which also mentioned the scientists' misgivings over lifting the ban on British gelatine and tallow, fuelled the outrage in France yesterday over BSE and the Commission's alleged failure to prevent Britain from exporting suspect feed to the Continent after it was banned at home in 1989.
Le Monde, which quoted sources on the committee, suggested the Commission had withheld new information on a link between BSE and CJD two weeks before the House of Commons announcement on the issue. Any new evidence held by the Commission would have been explosive because Franz Fischler, the Agriculture Commissioner, blames Britain for failing to give the Commission advance warning of the Commons announcement on a new strain of CJD, which triggered the scare.
The Commission said the committee, which is composed of independent scientists, had been stating the position held by the Commission for years. A spokesman for Herr Fischler said: "Our position since 1988-89 on BSE has been that we cannot exclude the risk for human health." He described as "absolutely ridiculous" the allegation that the report had been suppressed.
The Commission confirmed that the food committee had also voiced doubts on the wisdom of lifting the ban on the by-products at another meeting in early April, but he said these had been answered to the experts' satisfaction by a later meeting of the committee of veterinary experts. Officials noted frequent tension between the food scientists and the veterinary experts.
The Commission found itself under attack from French politicians yesterday for failing to stop Britain selling potentially infected animal feed in the rest of the EU.
The Times: Britain: 6.13.96
Britain dumped tainted animal feeds on other countries
BRITISH exports of animal feeds suspected of causing "mad cow" disease more than doubled after their sale was banned at home, it was disclosed yesterday. Most of the cut-price feeds went to France until it, too, banned them, but the exporters swiftly found new markets elsewhere in Europe, the Far East and Israel.
The disclosure, in the scientific journal Nature , caused serious concern in France where the report was the main item on television news bulletins last night, and the public outrage there will make it hard for President Chirac to give any further ground to John Major on lifting the ban on British beef exports.
The continued export of suspect feeds after they were withdrawn from the domestic market in 1988 was criticised at the time by a British Veterinary Association official who told Nature: "I badgererd our chief veterinary officer, saying that having identified a "poisoned food", it was immoral to export it. I was firmly put in my place." And Udo Weimar of the German Agriculture Ministry complained: "They knew at that time that meat and bone meal was dangerous, yet they exported it and spread the danger."
But the Ministry of Agriculture said last night that while the feed had been banned for ruminants, it could still be fed to pigs and poultry and there was no reason not to export it. [[Pigs are highly susceptible -- webmaster]]
Customs records show that the exports increased from about 5,000 ton a year to just over 13,000 between 1985 and 1988. But after the product was banned in Britain, overseas sales soared to 30,000 tons in 1989 and France more than doubled its order to take more than half of the total. When France introduced an import ban in August 1989, the cheap price attracted new customers in Israel and Thailand.
The Nature report caused immediate recriminations in France, where the Government under fire for agreeing to ease the British beef exports ban accused the Socialists of neglecting their responsibilities by allowing the feed imports when they were in power in the 1980s.
A French expert also used the report as evidence that "mad cow" disease was more widespread than had been reported. He said it was impossible that it was restrict ed to the sporadic cases identified in France, Portugal, Switzerland and Ireland, and said other countries must have been affected and were hiding the truth.
French officials, however, played down the dangers of the imports, saying traditional farming practices might have prevented a BSE epidemic. Professor Marc Savey of the National Centre for Veterinary Studies said the health risks would have been greater had French farmers not tended to use a low concentration of animal feed for cattle, using strong concentrations only for pigs and poultry.
The Times: Britain: June 15 1996
European Vets Doubt Beef Safety
FROM CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS
BRITAIN'S plan for easing the ban on beef exports earned a mixed review from Europe's veterinary officials yesterday, raising new doubts over the chances of defusing the BSE crisis before next week's EU summit in Florence.
After a day examining Britain's anti-BSE measures and its scheme for lifting the ban, the EU Standing Veterinary Committee indicated that it was unlikely to deliver a verdict, leaving it up to EU leaders next week.
"A majority of member states were supportive of the framework idea and were prepared to work on this basis," a British official said. However, German officials among others voiced strong reservations about aspects of both the eradication programme and the British framework plan to phase out the ban. Keith Meldrum, the Chief Veterinary Officer, said: "It's up to the Prime Minister how to take it forward."
Britain remained under pressure from the Commission and the other states to extend its plan for a selective cull to include animals born since 1989. Britain has offered a cull of cattle born since 1990 into herds where animals of the same age had contracted BSE, estimated at 80,000 animals.
The veterinary committee, which must endorse every step in the BSE affair through a qualified majority vote, will give guidance to foreign ministers who meet in Rome on Monday to prepare for the Florence summit next Friday. On Tuesday, the Commission is to take a position on the framework but will not seek a formal vote. Some veterinary officials said they did not want to be rushed into decisions on the basis of Britain's broad eight-page-plan.
On Tuesday the Commission is likely to draft a political, rather than a technical, proposal for a possible accord in Florence in which the other states agree to the outline of a phase-out, with no dates, in return for a commitment from John Major to end his blocking drive.
The brief, five-step framework plan is deemed by the Commission to be general enough to satisfy Germany, France and the other states which are under fierce domestic pressure to yield no ground to Britain. Britain has made no friends with its blocking campaign and its case has been further hindered by the news this week that it had exported suspect animal feed to France and other continental states.
A key point in the framework is the absence of dates for lifting the embargo. Britain is pressing first for the right to export beef to non-EU countries. The other four steps cover exemptions from the ban for exports of cattle embyros, of live animals born after Britain's plan to wipe out "mad cow" disease and ban suspect feed, of beef from herds certified to be free of the disease, and of meat from animals under 30 months old.
Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice agreed to hear Britain's request for an interim ruling on suspending the ban next Wednesday. The full court in Luxembourg will hear British lawyers argue that the Commission exceeded its powers in imposing the ban and that the British meat industry would suffer irreparable damage from it The Court will probably issue its ruling two weeks later. A full hearing on Britain's complaint will not take place before the autumn at the earliest.
FROM CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS
European vets want more cattle killed
The Times: Britain:June 13 1996
EUROPEAN officials pressed Britain yesterday to slaughter thousands more cattle than the 80,000 already proposed to clear the way for an accord to end the beef crisis.
As British officials handed the European Commission a revised version of the framework plan for easing the overall export ban, the standing veterinary committee, composed of national officials, insisted on a deeper selective cull. The plan is the subject of hectic negotiations in Brussels and EU capitals as diplomats try to strike a compromise that could end the British campaign of obstruction before the EU summit in Florence next week.
Keith Meldrum, the Chief Veterinary Officer, said his colleagues appeared ready to endorse the overall BSE eradication programme provided the selective cull was extended to cattle born in 1989 and 1990.
The existing plan dooms animals born between 1991 and 1993 in herds where others of the same age had contracted BSE. Britain and the Commission have voiced optimism over the prospects for a framework agreement next week but resistance remains high in Germany and several other states to any commitment to relaxing the ban before Britain has proved that BSE has been virtually eradicated.
The framework scheme aims to achieve agreement on the scientific criteria Britain must meet for each phase of easing the export ban. With an overall plan it will be harder for reluctant states to block decisions in the veteri nary committee, which must rule on each step. The committee is due to review the framework on Friday before handing it to foreign ministers in Rome on Monday. The Commission may endorse it next Tuesday, in time for Florence.
A spokesman for Jacques Santer, the Commission President, called Britain's latest framework "a realistic basis" for a solution. Since an end to British obstruction is implicit in any deal, an explosive political equation has to be solved if leaders are to agree in Florence.
BEEF CRISIS: M&S reassures French shoppersFROM BEN MACINTYRE AND SUSAN BELL IN PARIS
June 15 1996
THAT outpost of British cuisine in France, Marks & Spencer, ran advertisements in French newspapers yesterday promising readers that not a trace of British beef was to be found in its French shops. As the wave of anger over imports of suspect animal feed continued unabated, the retailer sought to reassure its French customers that they were in no danger of being poisoned.
In spite of last week's slight relaxation by the European Commission of the ban on British beef, the Marks & Spencer advertisement announced in capital letters: "No derivatives of British Beef are used in our products."
It went on: "No article currently sold in Marks & Spencer's French shops contains derivative products of British beef, notably beef gelatine of British origin."
The advertising campaign was orchestrated to cover each of the 17 French cities in which the company has outlets. It was prompted by calls on June 6 for a consumer boycott of all products containing British beef derivatives by the French Consumers Union.
Copyright 1996. London Times
24 May 1996 ... London Times
BY ARTHUR LEATHLEY, ANDREW PIERCE, AND CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS The Foreign Secretary hardened Britain's position over the crisis after John Major held the first meeting of his "war cabinet" to decide tactics in the offensive against the rest of the EU. Mr Rifkind said that Britain's refusal to co-operate in decisions requiring unanimous support was already biting. He signalled a lengthy campaign against the EU unless Britain's European partners lifted the ban on beef products such as gelatin, tallow and semen and agreed to a framework for the eventual lifting of the ban on beef. "We do not know if this will run for days, weeks, perhaps even two to three months, perhaps even longer. The policy will continue until the objective has been achieved." Officials said that it had to be made clear to European Union members that "this is not a tantrum. It will be a well thought out and concerted campaign to achieve the result we consider to be right". Although Mr Rifkind said that Britain would not back down over the issue, he conceded that, if ministers from other countries believed there should be an exception for a very serious issue, that exception would require the agreement of British ministers collectively. He added: "We do not anticipate exemptions."
Long war looming over beef ban