Health fears over imported sheep

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The Independent Online
A TRADE in live sheep from Poland to Britain is being investigated by the Ministry of Agriculture after 30 were found to be diseased and unfit for human consumption at a Birmingham slaughterhouse.

There are concerns that the proper checks on the animals' welfare and health were not carried out at the German border with Poland.

Under a new European Single Market system of animal import controls, Britain depends almost entirely on its European Union neighbours to make checks for animals from outside the union destined for the UK.

The concern about German enforcement comes at a time when Germany is considering banning imports of British beef because of fears about BSE, 'mad cow disease'.

When a consignment of nearly 300 sheep were slaughtered at the Halal Meat Company's abattoir earlier this week, Birmingham City Council environmental health officers ordered 30 carcasses to be withdrawn.

There were signs that welfare rules had been ignored during their journey across Europe. Many were partly lame, five died during the journey and one soon after it reached Birmingham. Four were judged unfit to travel by Ministry of Agriculture officials when the lorry arrived at Dover and were kept in Kent.

The company has begun importing from Poland because British sheep prices are high.

A spokesman for the slaughterhouse said it was normal for some carcasses to be judged unfit, adding: 'We abide by the rules and we would not risk our reputation.'