- LISBON (Reuters) - EU president
Sweden on Wednesday bewailed the waste involved in killing cattle en masse
to tackle mad cow disease, and said it was a pity the EU did not take a
stronger stand on other well-known health risks like tobacco.
- ``Tobacco and cigarettes kill around 500,000 people in
the European Union each year. But we don't care about it, we don't ban
tobacco,'' Swedish Agriculture Minister Margareta Winberg told a news conference
- Winberg did not say she opposed the EU decision to buy
and destroy all cattle more than 30 months old and destined for the food
chain that had not been tested for brain-wasting bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
But she commented that ``in a world where you have 800 million starving
people, it seems to be not so good a system to burn all these animals.''
- ``It means millions of animals will be slaughtered,''
she said, adding that many healthy animals would probably be killed because
not all member countries had the capacity to test all cows.
- The new policy took effect on January 1 and EU officials
estimate up to two million cattle may be destroyed.
- EU authorities adopted the plan after scientists said
that consumers risked catching the fatal human version of BSE, called new
variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), by eating beef from cows aged
over 30 months. SWEDEN, FINLAND, AUSTRIA EXEMPTED
- Winberg said there would be no compulsory testing in
Sweden, Finland and Austria, where no BSE cases have been reported.
- ``In Sweden we are not going to test all animals, because
we have got this exemption. We are going to test for all risk animals,''
she said, without specifying what a risk animal was.
- ``If we test our risk animals, perhaps we will find some
(BSE) cases, I don't know,'' Winberg added.
- Britain has the highest incidence of BSE, reporting 1,101
cases to the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) in
the first 10 months of 2000. Latest figures show 114 cases in Portugal
last year and 111 in France.
- More than 80 people have died from vCJD in Britain--where
mad cow disease first broke out in 1986--and two in France, and scientists
fear the toll may rise sharply.
- EU ministers adopted the mass slaughter plan last month
after France reported a rise in the number of new cases of BSE and Spain
and Germany discovered their first infected cows. This led to a wave of
concern about BSE in other European countries.
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