BSE backlog worsens

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The backlog in culling cattle to eliminate BSE from the national herd is worse than expected, the Government admitted yesterday.

But Roger Freeman, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said steps were being taken to prevent a heavy burden on farmers.

A survey showed that the number of cattle awaiting slaughter was "substantially higher" than the figures previously used for calculations, but Mr Freeman declined to give details. "The emergency continues," he said. "It seems to be worse than we had expected. We are quite determined to take the steps necessary to reassure the farming community that they are not going to be placed under an unacceptable burden over the winter months."

Mr Freeman added that he and the other agriculture ministers were determined that the cull would be completed by Christmas. Since May, 550,000 cattle have been culled.