`Ludicrous' cull creates nightmare for farmers

Courtney Sampson, who farms a 60-cow dairy herd near Tiverton, Devon, thought the Government's agreement to extend the cull as "ludicrous".

Once accepted, it will mean that British dairy cows born in 1989/1990 will be included in the selective cull; thus they will be destroyed if thought to be at risk from suffering from BSE.

Mr Sampson, who buys in all his dairy cows, said this could create a nightmare. "The whole thing is ludicrous. Ten if not more of my cows will have been born that year and they could now face being destroyed.

"Many of them could be among my best milkers. It doesn't make any sense - you get the feeling this is all just a political game.

"We've all heard farmers saying that they will cull their cows over their dead bodies - and you can understand what they mean."

He added: "It will be possible for them to trace which herds our cows have come from - but they haven't even begun culling the cows they said they would.

"I have thought all along they would come up with a big cull to satisfy the other end - the political end."

Privately farmers organisations think the culling issue has degenerated into a "farce" designed to satisfy the European consumer lobby.

One senior Ministry of Agriculture source said: "This is where the British negotiators have just been holding their heads in their hands. All these cattle would be removed from the food chain anyway under the 30-month rule.

"Our records from pre-1990 are not complete. The whole thing is a mess and purely cosmetic."