LETTER:German lessons of BSE crisis

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Sir: The BSE crisis raises fundamental issues about our regulatory systems and our presence in Europe.

The German Lander do not need the political support of the German government for their stand against international trading of British beef (report, 5 April). As regional governments they have the right under the derogation provisions of the 1990 meat hygiene directive to govern their own meat hygiene system, including slaughterhouse design and operation, ante-mortem and meat inspection, observing German federal law in respect of the maintenance of minimum standards, but able to provide, for example, for local small slaughterhouse systems linked to pedigree small herd production, butchering and marketing.

As in the UK, the scientific basis of meat hygiene has been absorbed in legislation and regulatory systems, which, like those of other EU member states, have in turn determined EU systems, including the wide margin that is maintained between risks of contamination and marketed products, based on information derived from continuous scientific research. Unlike the UK in the past 18 years, this information and the safety margin itself have not been distorted in favour of reduced regulation and self- management by major meat and feed production and marketing organisations.

John Pilgrim


Sir: Organic farmers have long recognised the dangers of feeding and injecting animals with unnatural foods and chemicals. They have sacrificed both numbers and time in order to enable animals to mature naturally and enjoy a reasonable existence before being slaughtered. The requirement to slaughter before the age of two-and-a-half years will mean in many cases that this regime will have to be altered to the detriment of both animal welfare and the quality of the beef. This is specially sad as I believe it remains the case that no beef animal raised organically has yet been reported with BSE.

It is not too late for this horrible affair to bring about a new attitude to the land and animals.

Godfrey Meynell

Kirk Langley