Cull of mozzarella buffalos

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The Independent Online

The Italian region of Campania, still stuck in a multimillion-tonne rubbish crisis, is having to confront another menace: a diktat requiring buffalo farmers to slaughter half of their herds.

For more than a decade, the region has been ineffectually battling an epidemic of brucellosis, an animal disease that can be transmitted to humans via unpasteurised milk. But faced with the threat of fines and slashed subsidies from the EU, the government has now appointed a commissar with emergency powers and a budget of €66m (£49m) to end the epidemic.

Mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk is the most cherished delicacy of the Campania region, but sales have plunged 40 per cent recently due to fears that the milk may have been contaminated by toxins leaching from illegal landfills run by crime gangs.

Brucellosis is also known as Neapolitan fever and Italy's failure to eliminate what is now largely a Third World problem – like its failure to solve the rubbish crisis – is intimately related to the strength of organised crime. Corrupt vets in the pay of crime gangs have been failing to report infected animals and on some farms the only way to enforce the law has been to send in the Carabinieri.

But the problem does not end there. Resistance to a mass cull among farmers remains high and the region has yet to build the incinerators where carcasses could be destroyed. The local mafia will also be keen to take their cut of the disease eradication commissar's €66m budget.

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