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Britain Agrees to Destroy Cattle, Despite Anger Over Beef Ban

April 3, 1996

LUXEMBOURG (AP) _ In an effort to wipe out mad cow disease and get beef back on the dinner table, Britain agreed to destroy millions of cattle after the European Union pledged today to reimburse farmers for most losses.

The EU refused, however, to lift a ban on British beef exports imposed last week amid rising public panic over reports that a deadly human brain disorder could be contracted from eating meat contaminated with mad cow disease.

``That ban is not justified,″ fumed British Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg after talks broke up just before dawn. ``It is disproportionate. It should be removed.″

The package of measures approved by the 15 EU countries requires Britain to destroy the carcasses of cattle over 30 months old instead of selling them as meat.

Britain estimates that will mean destroying 15,000 head of cattle every week for six years _ a total of 4.7 million of the country’s 11 million cattle.

Older cattle are considered most at risk from the brain-wasting disorder formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

In addition, the EU gave Britain a month to produce a detailed plan on a ``selective compulsory slaughter″ of younger animals from herds that may have been in contact with infected animals.

In return, the European Union agreed to cover 70 percent of the cost of compensating farmers whose livestock will be lost in the mass slaughter, or roughly $400 million a year.

Britain will pay the other 30 percent. The government said today it could not immediately say how it will implement the plan. In Britain, cattle to be destroyed are shot and the carcasses incinerated.

``Conditions are now right for the restoration of consumer confidence in beef throughout the EU,″ EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler declared.

Instead of granting Britain’s request for an immediate lifting of the export ban or a firm timetable for doing so, the other EU nations said only they would review the export ban within six weeks.

Other measures in the plan agreed here include better labeling of beef to show its country of origin; a tighter a ban on feeding animal corpses to cattle, a practice blamed for spreading mad cow disease; stepped up health checks on British herds; and increase funding for research into mad cow disease.

Britain maintains its beef is safe, but it set off a continent-wide health scare March 20 by announcing there may be a link between the cow ailment and the deadly Creutzfeldt-Jakob brain disease in humans. Previously the British government had said there was no evidence of a link.

The announcement sent beef sales crashing, first in Britain, then across Europe as consumers worried that their herds may have been infected by British cattle.

A small number of mad cow cases has been detected in other EU nations, including France, Ireland and Portugal.

There has never been a case of mad cow disease reported in the United States.

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