SDC Network 1998

BSE – More Questions than Answers.


7        Stephen Dorrel’s statement to parliament on black Wednesday 20th March, was made following a market research survey conducted by Taylor Nelson, during the previous weekend. Hence Hogg’s statement immediately afterwards:”I do not believe that this information should damage consumer confidence”


7        No questions were asked about genetic input into cattle collected for examination as suspected BSE cases. It is our experience (over 100 cases on 4 farms) that the majority were within a cow ‘family’. Not necessarily dam / daughter, but members carrying the same genetic ancestors. We understand that the vCJD victims are all one genotype. We queried whether any work had been done by CVL on susceptible genotype in cattle, and if so, what effect would that have had on the ‘maternal transmission’ trial, in which animals  were sourced ex farm at up to 18 months of age. Farms involved in the study, confirm that no follow up was ever made on the ‘BSE free’ dam whose offspring was taken as a cohort. The cattle in the trial could have had access to contaminated feed, chemicals and/or any co-factors in the development of BSE. They were not sourced at birth, or even prior to birth.


7        Private veterinary practices are licensed by the Ministry to carry out their work under the LVI licence. Anecdotally we understand that they were “not encouraged” to go outside MAFF guidelines for epidemiology and information on BSE. We asked the Inquiry if that rigid stance may have obstructed understanding of BSE, and masked possible co-factors in its emergence.


7        BSE was certainly around earlier than 1986, and it did not ‘suddenly’ appear. Slides taken from cattle postmortems in 1985 by MAFF in 1985, and known as “Pitsham Farm Syndrome “ were subsequently identified as BSE. But we have first hand knowledge of cattle displaying symptoms, which had they been notifiable at the time, would have required reporting to SVS as BSE suspects, through the ‘70’s and in increasing numbers through the 80’s. Vets concur.


7        Working with an American company, a SW laboratory was keen to develop a system of marking cattle at pre clinical stage of BSE. A Live Test. Samples of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) were to be taken from an animal provisionally diagnosed with BSE, by the attending veterinary surgeon, with other samples taken from herd mates to try and develop a ‘marker’. Only one sample was taken, before government intervention by the Home Office stopped the procedure. We asked the Inquiry whether the apparent exclusion of private epidemiological work may have compromised the depth of knowledge of BSE, and the speed at which it was controlled. We also enquired into the existence of a government franchise on any live pre-clinical test for BSE.




7        Berne University 1996. Report into probable cases of BSE in mainland Europe, arising from UK cattle exports 1985-91. Exporters and farmers who supplied these animals confirm that in the cohort group from which they came, BSE submission rate was as high as 50%. The report calculated that on the basis of the exporting farm’s history, 1668 animals should have been reported. Only 30 were.


7        Calf exporters reported to us a thriving business in cross bred heifer calves to EU, which were retagged on entry, and sold as suckler cow replacements instead of veal. Cow found in Spanish abattoir in 1997, still wearing UK tag – and French one.


7        The only thing unique to UK about BSE is the reporting. In the UK, a single cow is a ‘case’, while in EU the herd is a ‘case’. And UK farmer has compensation and no other costs. A continental farmer loses his licence to sell produce (milk, meat, cheese etc.,) if he reports a BSE suspect. The ability to trade and sell is only reinstated after postmortem tests, and this can take up to 3 months, during which the farm has no income. Whole herd slaughter follows, with carcasses going into the food chain. We asked the Inquiry if they felt that the method of reporting ‘cases’, had any effect on the headline figures for EU countries incidence of BSE.


7        Many EU countries had no ‘non confirmed cases’ of BSE. These are cattle which have been submitted for postmortem, but which may have had tumours, hydrocephalus etc., In any population of cattle there should be some, - if the reporting is done accurately. Many EU countries had none. France reported a huge increase in ‘untreatable staggers’.


7        Switzerland blamed Bavarian feed mills for their cases. The complex serves 3 countries – but only Switzerland, who mirrored UK farmer reporting of BSE suspect cattle, admitted any cases in the mid 1990’s.


7        1990 EU Report into BSE”All research to be British responsibility” The Commission at no time took responsibility for large scale research into BSE, It gave priority to market management – a policy of disinformation.


7        1991 EU Report. No funds were available for a community wide eradication programme. BSE was politically ring fenced to the UK.


7        1987 – 1996  UK IMPORTED 259,486 tonnes unprotected meat/bonemeal, of which 243,898 tonnes were from the EU.  Mainland Europe has still to enforce an SBO ban, and ours was not watertight, but the trade in meat/bonemeal is GLOBAL. The material is allegedly responsible for 172,000 cases if UK BSE. Where are the cases resulting from our exports? And were the imports also culpable?





7        Virtually all rendering processes in use across Europe, and around the world fail to inactivate the scrapie/BSE agent. Experiments carried out in 1990 show that only one in ten systems tested, was capable of deactivating the scrapie/BSE agent. And the change in rendering, that occurred in the early 80’s happened across EU, at virtually the same time. We asked the Inquiry if, in the light of this report, other co-factors into the emergence of BSE should have been considered.


7        1997 Commission opens infringement proceedings against 10 member states for breaches of BSE safeguards in the animal feed chain. In 1997, most of EU failed to operate SRM controls and still operated multi species mills. We asked the Inquiry whether the infringements of these basic precautions by our ‘trading partners’, should have led government to question unrestricted access of cattle, animal feed, beef, beef products, medicinal bovine serum etc., into the UK over that period.


7        10,000 Dutch heifers imported into UK by one company. It proved impossible to check cases of BSE in imported cattle within the UK, due to MAFF collating them as domestic if they’d been in the country longer than 22 months. Many imported cattle enter the UK as in calf heifers aged 18 –20 months. But the majority of UK BSE cases are 4/5 years old, therefore the 22 month ruling, (introduced by Mrs. Angela Browning so as not to upset the French,) would exclude them from being identified with country of origin. Westcountry TV showed home video footage of  an imported French cow, which was subsequently diagnosed positive for BSE.



7        New or previously Unrecognised?  Although ‘new’ has now been quietly dropped from the description nvCJD, and it is now known as vCJD, the first person ever to suffer from CJD was just 20 years old. We asked the Inquiry if they had knowledge of a collection of human brains known as the Corsellis collection, housed at Wickford Essex, some of which appear to show lesions compatible with the so called ‘new’ type of CJD, but dating back to the early part of the 20th century.




SDC Network 1998