Council restores beef to school menus
Government to donate unsold beef to homeless
Mad Seagull Disease strikes
Calf slaughter appalling
Ape colony needed for study on BSE effects?
MAFF rethink on maternal transmission


Council restores beef to school menus

by Michael Hornsby, Agriculture Correspondent
The Times ... November 8 1996

Beef returned to the menu for 60,000 schoolchildren yesterday, in a further sign that public fears over "mad cow" disease were subsiding.

North Yorkshire County Council voted unanimously, on the recommendation of its education sub-committee, to lift the ban on beef in all secondary and most primary schools. Parents were asked by questionnaire if they wanted it on the menu, a spokesman said. "In every school where a majority voted in favour, beef is being served again, but there will always be an alternative." Parents at all 47 secondary schools gave their approval, but at 135 of the 328 primary schools most voted for the ban to stay.

About 95 per cent of Britain's education authorities removed beef from menus after the disclosure in March of a probable link between eating BSE-infected beef and the human brain disease CJD; 75 per cent are thought to retain a ban.

Government to donate unsold beef to homeless

by Paul Nuki
Sunday Times ... Sunday 11 November 1996

As Marie Antoinette might have said: let them eat steak. Thousands of tons of unwanted beef are to be given to Britain's homeless, writes Paul Nuki.

Douglas Hogg, the agriculture minister, is to approve a government scheme by which up to 8,000 tons of prime cuts will be distributed through soup kitchens around the country. Britain has a growing beef mountain following the BSE crisis.

Charities have agreed to take the beef, which they re gard as a vital source of winter protein for the homeless, provided they can be assured that it is from herds which have been given a clean bill of health.

Patrick Henson, head of catering at Waltham Forest YMCA, which looks after up to 120 homeless people a night, is already writing his Christmas menus. "I would like nothing better than to serve up a proper beef wellington but we have quite high standards. We need to be assured it was not contaminated with BSE," he said.

The charity Crisis, which dished out 35,000 free meals last Christmas, also welcomed the initiative but warned that the modern poor, while far from picky, would not eat just anything.

Its FareShare scheme, which provides more than 8,000 meals a week to homeless people, is supplied with unsold food by Marks & Spencer, which has created a benchmark in modern food standards.

"If the government is prepared to guarantee that this beef is safe, then it is not for us to turn it down. We would accept what we could make use of," said Karen Bradford, FareShare's project manager.

The scheme will be run by the Intervention Board, a government agency more accustomed to dealing with the processed food industry and pet food manufacturers than the homeless.

Since the announcement in March of a possible link between BSE in cattle and CJD, a brain disease in humans, beef stocks have increased sixfold to more than 33,000 tons following a worldwide ban on exports.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said it is confident that the meat will be well received. "All the beef is absolutely safe. It is all less than 30 months old and free of offal. It is exactly the same beef as everyone else in Britain is eating," said a spokesman.


Mad Seagull Disease strikes

Staff Reporter
London Evening Standard ... Friday 8 November 1996

A disease which causes symptoms similar to BSE in cattle has left hundreds of seagulls dead or dying on French beaches this week.

Environmentalists in the Calais area are convinced the birds diet is causing a disease in the nervous system. The stricken birds lurch along, trying to fly before plunging back to the beach. They are unable to feed themselves and sit in the sand waiting to die. We believe the cause is a polluted food source says a rescuer.


Calf slaughter

From the Director of Compassion in World Farming

The Times ... Tuesday 12 November 1996

Sir,

Hidden in the midst of Mr Douglas Hogg's new EU package of "support" for cattle farmers is an appalling development ­ the extension of slaughter subsidies to beef-breed calves (News in brief, October 31).

Since April the UK has slaughtered well over a quarter of a million male dairy-breed calves ­ the ones that would have been exported to continental veal farms. Now this scheme could double the numbers.

There is an inherent obscenity in mass slaughter of the newly-born. At the practical level, Compassion in World Farming fears many calves may receive scant care whilst still on the farm ­ they are, after all condemned animals. Already we hear of calves bought in the West Country being taken to the North East, and even Scotland, for slaughter ­ horrendous journeys for these vulnerable creatures.

What with the growing queue of cull cattle and the increasing level of calf slaughter, it looks like a winter where welfare provisions for these animals will be abandoned in the desperate attempt to fill our incinerators and land-fills, supply our petfood manufacturers and maggot farms and tempt the carnivorously inclined back to the beef-fold.

Yours sincerely, JOYCE D'SILVA,
Director,
Compassion in World Farming,
Charles House,
5A Charles Street,
Petersfield,
Hampshire


Apes needed for study on BSE effects

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Daily Telegraph ... Tuesday 12 November 1996

Colonies of apes should be established to investigate the threat that bovine spongiform encephalopathy poses to the human population, according to a Government research strategy.

The plan, launched by the Department of Health yesterday, identifies targets such as discovering the fundamental nature of the agent that causes BSE, CJD and similar diseases, and how it is transmitted, by a programme of research that includes the use of animals. "The work will make an urgently needed contribution to the protection of public health," said Prof John Swales, the department's director of research.

The Government has spent more than £50 million on research into transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), the family of diseases to which CJD and BSE belong, in the last five years. The report stresses that there is an "urgent need" for the development of animal facilities and "careful consideration" should be given to large-scale ape studies for up to a decade, even though the European Union plans similar work.

"I hope that Britain would wish to participate in such a study," said Prof Lesek Borysiewicz, the chairman of a Department of Health/Medical Research Council TSE advisory group. He said that the number of primates required for the experiment is sufficiently large that the work would have to be co-ordinated across the EU.

The strategy has been difficult to develop because the science is evolving and experiments take a long time, said Prof Swales.


Rethink on BSE study

News in Brief

The Times ... Tues 12 November 1996

Government scientists may have been wrong when they decided that cows infected with BSE could pass the disease to unborn calves. Danny Matthews, a veterinary adviser at the Agriculture Ministry, said that the study results announced in August were open to other interpretations, which included the possibility of no maternal transmission at all.