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British cattle may be slaughtered to stop 'mad cow' disease

March 24, 1996
Web posted at: 8:15 p.m. EST (0115 GMT)

LONDON (CNN) -- Britain's Agriculture Minister said Sunday that the government may have to slaughter part of the country's cattle herd to stop the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or "mad cow" disease.

"A slaughter policy is not excluded," said Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg on BBC television. "Clearly that is a matter which we need to consider."

Dozens of countries have banned the import of British beef since a report last week showed a potential link between BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), its deadly human equivalent.

And fast food giant McDonald's has announced that it would suspend the sale of hamburgers at its 660 stores in Britain until Thursday, after which Dutch beef will be used.

"I believe our beef is safe," said Paul Preston, president of McDonald's UK. "This is about the confidence our customers have."

Hogg indicated that his government would take strong action to restore public confidence in Britain's beef industry.

"We certainly will consider any proposals that come to us from sources which have clearly given the matter considerable consideration," he said.

Hogg said that Britain would look to the European Union to help repair any economic damage the crisis causes.

Scientists have met for the past two days to review the situation, and veterinary officials are expected to make recommendations to the European Commission on Monday. An EU- wide ban on British beef is considered likely.

If Britain does opt for slaughtering the cattle, Hogg said that the focus would be on older animals because few cases of BSE have been reported in younger animals.

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