Morro announces tough action

THE Balearic government is to slaughter all cattle which have come in to contact with the cow that died in Minorca on January 22 - yesterday the Zaragoza laboratory confirmed that a second set of tests for mad cow have proved positive. With demand for beef at rock bottom and the number of cattle being slaughtered in local abattoirs down by nearly 90 per cent, confirmation of the Balearics' first mad cow case, just one of seven new cases revealed yesterday, will do little to boost confidence amongst consumers and farmers. All 66 of the other cows on the Santa Eulalia farm in Minorca are to be put down. Balearic Agriculture Minister, Mateu Morro, adopted a set of tough and strict measures yesterday and announced that his department will make funding available for the affected farm. He also gave assurances that the carcasses of the culled cattle will be disposed of under the strictest regulations. A leading nutritional expert said in Palma yesterday that Spain was in a situation to have taken action against mad cow in 1995 and that now the time has come for the politicians to listen to the scientists. The Minister also said that a search will be launched for all cattle born a year prior to, and a year after the birth of the mad cow victim so that they can be removed from the herds and put down. Morro called an urgent press conference yesterday morning in the wake of the results of the mad cow tests on the cow which died on January 22. Morro tried again to reassure the general public that the government and the Agriculture Ministry is doing all it can to control the mad cow crisis, adding “we can confirm that there is no risk posed to beef consumers in the Balearics.” The Minister repeated his calming words of wisdom for consumers, explaining that the controls and inspections which have been introduced to prevent any suspect or dangerous meat reaching the markets are extremely strict - which is why the consumer “has plenty of guarantees” about the quality of meat on sale. The authorities still do not know the origin of the nine-year-old sick cow, but the Agriculture Ministry does know that the cow had two calves, one of which was slaughtered at nine months, but posed no threat to consumers because mad cow develops after 30 months. The second calf is one of the 66 head of cattle on the farm which are to be put down. The farm's dried feed is also to be removed for examination. It was also made clear yesterday that while this is the first case of mad cow in the Balearics, of the 84 other tests carried out by the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary team, all have proved negative. Morro admitted that while the European Union's guidelines on mad cow are not quite so severe, he has taken the decision that all other cows on the Minorcan farm are to be slaughtered. “We can't rule out the possibility that more cases may be found in the Balearics, although there is little evidence of such at the moment,” Morro said yesterday.