Republican News · Thursday 18 January 2001

[An Phoblacht]

Why must healthy cattle die?

What on earth does the Dublin government think it is doing with the cattle?

According to current estimates, anything between 300,000 and 700,000 cattle are to be slaughtered, at a cost of half a billion pounds? And for what?

Nobody knows what to do with them after they are dead, because nobody really knows how to get rid of the prions that transmit the disease. All they do know is that prions have been found after incineration at 600 degrees centigrade.

The government is going to compensate the farmer at 91p a lb, plus a 5% bonus. And then it is going to pay again to keep the remains in cold storage.

We were all told that the cattle had to be killed because they might be a BSE risk, but scientists point out that nobody really knows anything for certain about BSE or how it is transmitted. Nothing is known for sure, except that at least half a million healthy cattle are to be killed, without so much as being tested for BSE first.

Yesterday on RTE, Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh blithely let it slip that the slaughter was not really about BSE but about price support for beef. Wipe out the supply, and the price might be maintained. Moreover, the silence of the farming organisations in the face of all this is deafening.

Last November, the media screamed BSE crisis. The EU came back with a deal to finance a slaughter policy, agreeing to cover 70% of the farmers' compensation. This was handy for the Dublin government, because they could witter on about the need for incineration, which was of course irrelevant, because incineration isn't proven to get rid of BSE prions anyway. With the cattle gone, the government also wouldn't have to meet the annual cry from farmers who were short on fodder because of the floods.

But did Minister Walsh think of the terrible crime of wasting all that food in a world of starvation? Maybe the EU did his thinking for him.

This mass slaughter is an absolute scandal.

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