France supports slaughter of British cattle if necessary
March 30, 1996
Web posted at: 2:20 p.m. EST
PARIS (CNN) -- The French agricultural minister said Saturday he would back a mass slaughter of British cattle to stop "mad cow" disease if scientists decide that step is warranted.
"If scientists say that the only solution is to slaughter all British livestock, I for one will be ready," said Philippe Vasseur. But, he added, "there is no scientific evidence currently permitting anyone to consider such a measure."
Dozens of countries have banned the import of British beef, but Europeans have begun to avoid any beef, as the "mad cow" disease panic spreads. Scientists speculated 10 days ago that the bovine disease is linked to the deadly Creutzfeld- Jakob Disease in humans, sparking the panic.
Economists agree that slaughtering Britain's 11 million cattle would devastate the country's economy -- and a mass slaughter may be difficult to achieve.
Only a handful of crematoriums in Britain are capable of safely disposing of infected cows. Should a mass incineration be ordered, crematoriums like the Cambridge Pet Crematorium may not be able to handle the load.
"The government is talking about 15,000 cases per week," said Ray Hale of the Cambridge crematorium, which can handle about 200-250 cases a week. "There simply isn't enough incinerators in the U.K. to deal with that number." (122K AIFF sound or 122K WAV sound)
Without the facilities to carry out even a modest slaughter plan, many worry that cows will be shot and burned on the farm -- and scientists worry that could infect the water supply. (172K AIFF sound or 172K WAV sound)
And on the farm, British cattle ranchers wait for word from the government about what to do next.
"We've got to get our customers back," said cattleman Henry Hurrell, whose herd's net worth has been reduced to nothing.
From Correspondent Siobhan Darrow and wires reports.
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