Letter: British beef war

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The Independent Culture
Sir: As someone who was involved in the 1996 BSE scare as both a beef farmer and representative of the NFU, it is with more despair than surprise that I regard the current reaction to the so-called "beef war" with France.

Most of the media coverage and all of the comments from the Opposition party display a short-sighted and narrow-minded attitude which can only be ascribed to a combination of bigotry and guilt.

Three and a half years ago, the government of the time was presiding over an inept public relations exercise, aided and abetted by media coverage which was far more interested in sensationalism than public information. The result was a scare which damaged public confidence in beef all round the globe to an extent that was well in excess of any potential risk to human health.

Had BSE been a French phenomenon in which their government had bungled throughout, failed to consult with European partners as to how to deal with the problem, and thereby threatened consumer confidence in all beef - I rather imagine our reactionary media and politicians would have been the first to howl for an embargo.

If at a later stage thousands of their schools were still not serving beef, and we had a fully operational food standards agency which was voicing concerns about "dodgy French beef", how would we have reacted if our government were not to adopt the line the French have taken?

In order to market our produce abroad we have to show a willingness to look and think beyond our cosy little island.