Tests prove slaughtered cow had BSE disease

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RESULTS OF a post-mortem examination have confirmed that Damson, the pedigree Jersey cow whose owner alleviated her nervous symptoms with drugs normally used against pesticide poisoning, was suffering from BSE, or 'mad cow' disease.

Mark Purdey, an organic farmer from Somerset, says the results reinforce his theory that chronic exposure to pesticides weakened the normal defence systems of cattle in Britain, making them vulnerable to the BSE agent. He disputes the official view that BSE can be traced to the use of contaminated feed.

He is particularly critical of the use of one group of pesticides, known as organophosphates, to treat warble fly infestations and other parasites. He believes there is a correlation between regions where these pesticides have been used and the appearance of BSE.

Until recently, Mr Purdey's theories have been largely dismissed by BSE specialists. He believes officials from the Ministry of Agriculture wanted to thwart his research on Damson, by making it difficult for him to continue injections of oxime - a chemical carried by troops in the Gulf war as an antidote to nerve gas.

The first oxime injection produced a temporary improvement in Damson, whose wobbly symptoms seemed to have disappeared. The cow was slaughtered before Mr Purdey could try further injections. Mr Purdey's vet, Christopher Budge, is considering sending samples taken from Damson to researchers at Cambridge University for further examination.

Mr Budge said: 'If I can help to clarify his theory I am happy to do so. It is only by question and examination that we can get any advance in this.'

Mr Purdey said the Ministry of Agriculture had written to inform him that he may not receive the pounds 500 compensation he expected. Yesterday, however, a ministry spokeswoman said it was considering making an ex gratia payment.