The mad cow crisis has hit Spain and the Balearics with its full force, putting the government on the defensive, slashing incomes in the cattle industry and casting a shadow over the prized national institution of bull fighting. Adding to the catalogue of problems, analysts say Spain's five incinerators will be unable to cope with the carcasses of the 180'000 cattle facing slaughter over the next six months as a precaution against BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy). Beef consumption has plummeted by up to 35 percent since the outbreak began in November as many Spaniards shunned their once favourite dishes, including beef sausages and calf fillets and the number of cows being slaughtered in the Balearics has fallen by 70 per cent. Spain has confirmed seven cases of the deadly brain-wasting disease among cattle and another five animals are undergoing tests, fuelling concern the toll will rise as testing becomes more widespread. Spain has no reported case of BSE's deadly human equivalent, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). More than 80 people have died from the disease in Britain. The government has come under fire from the opposition, farmers groups and scientists for its handling of the problem. Madrid has hit back, launching a new BSE monitoring committee and defending its track record. “We've taken all the correct decisions in this complex crisis,” Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete said, shrugging off calls for his resignation. The scare has already reaped two political casualties. The head of agriculture in the northwestern Galicia region quit after hundreds of cattle carcasses were left to rot in a mine this month. And the head of the government's new monitoring committee also resigned last week after farmers alleged his ownership of a big pig farm represented a conflict of interest.


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