Chapter 2

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2. Economic implications

2. Economic implications

The economic consequences of BSE in the United Kingdom have been considerable. To begin with, the only losses due to BSE were those associated with the death or slaughter on humane grounds, of BSE-affected animals. These losses were borne by individual farmers until August 1988, when a slaughter policy with part compensation was introduced (HMSO, 1988b; 1988c). As the number of BSE cases increased and more farmers were experiencing a second case, full compensation up to a ceiling was introduced in February 1990 ( HMSO, 1 990a). In 1989 over 8000 suspected and confirmed cases of BSE were slaughtered. About 70 percent of the slaughtered animals were disposed of by incineration and the rest by burial at approved sites. The compensation costs for the year were over 2.8 million and the disposal costs amounted to 1.6 million (Matthews' 1990).

Once the epidemiological studies had identified meat and bone meal as the vehicle of infection (see p. 20), the United Kingdom Government banned the feeding of all ruminant-derived protein to ruminants, in July 1988(HMSO, 1988a). This had an immediate impact on the rendering industry in terms of reduced exports and domestic sales of meat and bone meal. Another effect in the United Kingdom was to increase the costs to abattoirs of animal waste disposal. Subsequently complex changes in the economics of beef and beef products have been experienced by many sections of the community including producers retailers and consumers.

The international trade in live cattle was adversely affected when it was realized that some exported animals might have been infected in the United Kingdom before the ruminant protein ban came into effect (July 1988). The following year (July 1989) the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) banned the importation. from the United Kingdom of all live cattle born before July 1988 (CEC, 1989). A later amendment restricted these exports to calves under six months of age (CEC, 1990a) (see p. 45). Many countries outside the European Economic Community (EEC) have gone further and banned the importation of all live cattle from the United Kingdom. Some have also banned the importation of milk and milk products despite recommendations to the contrary (OIE, 1990; 1992).

BSE has also had economic consequences in the human and pet food industries. In the winter of 1989/90, the United Kingdom Government banned the use for human food of certain specified bovine offals which potentially contain relatively high titres of BSE infectivity (HMSO, 1 989b). This was introduced as a precautionary measure to ensure that the risks to public health from BSE were kept to a minimum regardless of the extent and future course of the epidemic in cattle (see p. 50). The same specified offals were subsequently banned from use in feedstuffs for all mammals and birds, including pets (HMSO, 1990b; see p. 53).

Each of the measures relating to food was tailored to achieve scientifically defined objectives, all of them precautionary in nature. However, they have not prevented several countries from banning imports of a much wider range of human and animal food products containing bovine tissues other than the proscribed offals. This has seriously disrupted the United Kingdom export trade.


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