- Department of Agriculture Refuses To Reveal Locations
Of Burial Sites Of Mad Cow Carcasses
- The authorities have known for more than a year that
cattle infected with Mad Cow disease, linked to the deadly vCJD in humans,
have been passing undetected through meat plants around the country.
- According to confidential documents circulated among
top officials of the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) a year ago, "Increased surveillance will probably result
in the detection of BSE-positive carcasses at knackeries and meat plants."
- But the department only announced its BSE contingency
plan last week after it received EU backing to slaughter up to 25,000 untested
cattle a week for the next three years.
- Consumer groups are likely to be shocked by the revelation
that the Department of Agriculture and the EPA were aware for some time
that the BSE problem in Ireland is much worse than the 580 cases confirmed
to date would indicate.
- "We are missing half of it, at best," says
Peter Dargan, the former vet who is chairman of the Consumer Association.
"It is a very difficult disease for vets to diagnose and there is
no post-mortem test for it.
- "They won't tell us the full story of BSE because
the Department of Agriculture's primary job is to protect the meat trade.
It is an appalling vista that the food we eat could kill us, so instead
they put a great spin on it ... 'It was worse and now we are clearing it
- In documents seen by the Sunday Independent and prepared
last May, the Secretary-General of the Department, John Malone, told the
EPA: "With the advent of additional BSE surveillance at knackeries
and meat plants, this Department is faced with the likelihood of an increased
number of BSE positives and a fundamental difficulty in terms of the disposal
of the carcasses of positive animals identified at these locations."
- Senior veterinary inspectors also warned over a year
ago that "BSE suspects are being buried at less than satisfactory
locations". In a memo dated January 2000, two department vets advised:
"The policy of burial of BSE suspects should be re-assessed on both
safety and practical grounds."
- But this warning was ignored and the policy continued
for almost another year until last November, when the Minister for Agriculture,
Joe Walsh, caved in to public pressure and ended the practice.
- Despite the criticism of this practice and the secrecy
surrounding it, the Department of Agriculture last week refused under the
Freedom of Information Act to give details of the burial sites of the 580
Mad Cow cases so far detected.
- "Publication of the precise locations of the burials
in each county would entail the publication of the name and address of
every farmer in whose herd a BSE-positive animal was found ... Individuals
reporting BSE suspects have a reasonable expectation that this information
will be treated in confidence," says the Department of Agriculture,
claiming it would not be in the public interest to publish the whereabouts
of BSE-infected carcasses.
- Although Fine Gael's Alan Dukes agreed with the new control
measures, he said yesterday: "The rest of the package is missing."
He said Ireland must build an incinerator as a matter of urgency
- Documents seen by the Sunday Independent also reveal
that in January last year, while the department was still burying animals
on farms, senior veterinary inspectors warned that the practice is "hard
to justify". In a memo dated last January, they said: "BSE cases
in the Cavan/Monaghan region are now accounting for 35 per cent of all
cases. These counties, and many others at this time of year, have a high
water table and very poor drainage. This means that BSE suspects are being
buried in less than satisfactory locations."
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