DUBLIN — A targeted cull of older animals in mad cow disease “hot spots” around the country — which could involve the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of cattle — is being considered by Irish government scientific experts as a way of speeding up eradication of the disease.
The feasibility of the move is under investigation as the number of BSE cases for this year reached a record 246. That compares to 145 cases last year and 91 in 1999.
A targeted cull in areas with large concentrations of the disease, such as Cavan, Monaghan, Cork, Limerick and Wexford, would accelerate a disease-free status for the country.
It would also boost beef sales by reassuring domestic consumers and help persuade foreign customers to reopen their markets to Irish exports.
Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh said the review was narrowing down to a targeted cull.
“Because of our very low incidence of BSE, you would have to take out several hundred thousands cows to take out maybe less than 100 BSE cases,” he said, adding that as a result of the extensive testing and control systems now in place that was “no possibility” that any infected carcasses are getting into the human food chain.
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Samples taken from 608,731 apparently healthy animals going for slaughter this year found only 33 that were positive for BSE.
The BSE cases being discovered now all involve older cattle. No animals born after 1996 have been detected and an increasing proportion of infected animals are 6 years or over.
— Andrew Bushe