EU tells farmers: No more BSE cash
This German salami factory has blamed the BSE crisis for its closure
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Farm ministers have been told no more help is on hand to deal with mad cow disease as European Union coffers are empty.
The European Commission said on Thursday that after an additional 1 billion euros, set aside earlier this month, has been spent no more cash will be available.
The news did little to help stem the anger among Italian farmers, who took to the streets on Thursday to demand more government aid after a second suspected case of bovine spongiform ecephalopathy (BSE) was found.
Meanwhile, a third case of mad cow disease was found in Belgium , while Portugal began slaughtering some 50,000 cattle as part of an effort to purge herds of the disease and secure the lifting of an EU ban on its exports.
EU farm ministers were expected to ask for more funds beyond the sum set aside for testing and the destruction of untested carcasses at their regular monthly meeting on Monday.
But Gregor Kreuzhuber, the EU's agricultural spokesman pre-empted any attempt when he said: "We'll spend that one billion euros for mad cow disease, but that's all, because there's no more money left."
Ministers are expected to discuss a report by EU Health Commissioner David Byrne on how measures to combat mad cow have progressed in the 15 EU nations.
Also on the agenda will be animal welfare and transport and simplified payments to small farmers.
On Thursday, German officials in the eastern state Saxony-Anhalt ordered the slaughter of an entire herd of cattle after a confirmed mad cow case.
The slaughter of the 1,012-strong herd is the first such measure since the discovery of Germany's initial BSE case in November.
It is the latest action in the fight against BSE and comes as the French Government urged the country's beef industry to label products more clearly in a bid to regain consumer confidence.
Germany has identified 19 cases of BSE after three new cases were confirmed on Wednesday.
Although some 2,000 cattle had been slaughtered and burnt so far in the country, this was the first instance where the destruction of an entire herd had been ordered.
Mad cow disease has killed thousands of cattle across Europe and is believed by scientists to be linked to the human form of the ailment Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
The BSE scare has sent German beef sales tumbling 60 percent and prices down 35 percent since November. The meat industry estimates consumption will fall by 80 percent this year compared with 2000, threatening some 10,000 jobs.
French consumption of beef plunged last year when three supermarket chains said they had sold beef from a herd containing an animal infected with BSE.
But in an effort to regain confidence, French Farm Minister Jean Glavany and junior Consumer Affairs Minister Francois Patriat have urged beef producers to go beyond the current EU labelling rules.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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French Government directory
World Health Organisation: BSE and vCJD fact sheet
Human BSE Foundation
Institutions of the European Union
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