One of the leading lights of the RSPCA was in hospital yesterday undergoing tests for CJD, the human form of mad cow disease.
Baroness Ziki Wharton, who has been a vice-president of the animal charity for the past three years, was "seriously unwell" in Charing Cross Hospital in west London, her doctor said.
Angus Kennedy, a consultant neurologist at the West London Neurosciences Centre, said: "She has undergone a series of neurological investigations, including tests for Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease."
New variant CJD, the human form of mad cow disease which emerged in 1995, is believed to be acquired from eating beef contaminated with BSE. At least 50 people in Britain have fallen victim to the progressively debilitating disease since it was identified.
However, it is understood that the Baroness may be suffering instead from a form of CJD unconnected to cows.
Peter Davies, director general of the RSPCA, said Baroness Wharton had shown a lifelong commitment to animal welfare. "We're all very concerned to hear that someone who has devoted so much time and energy to animals is seriously ill in hospital."
She supported MP Michael Foster's Bill to outlaw hunting and was concerned about the practice of illegal puppy farming which has now been banned and the quarantining of pets which is now being replaced with pet passports.Reuse content