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January jump in Mad Cow cases

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — As a market support program to destroy thousands of healthy cattle comes in for increasing criticism, Ireland’s Department of Agriculture has reported that 17 new cases of Mad Cow Disease were detected on farms throughout the country in the four weeks up to Jan. 19.

This brings to 613 the number of cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy discovered since it was first detected in 1989.

The department said all the newly found cases in the last month involved cattle that were between 5 and 15 years old. All were born before controls on animal feeds were tightened in 1996.

Since Jan. 1, all cattle over 30 months entering the food chain have to be tested and a spokesman said 24,028 cattle that had been through this process had so far proved negative for the disease.

A new system where farmers can sell the cattle aged over 30 months to the state under a purchase-for-destruction program has resulted in the slaughtering of 15,984 cattle since Jan. 10.

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Cattle entering the destruction program are rendering into meat and bone meal (MBM) and do not go into the food chain. The MBM will eventually have to be destroyed.

The program has been strongly criticized as immoral and a wanton waste of good food by some observers, who want it stopped and all cattle tested.

However, Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh said it was a necessary price support program for an industry that involves about 100,000 farmers.

"We have taken a two-pronged approach — firstly to test to protect consumer interests and secondly to destroy, and that is a market support measure," he said.

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