Thousands of Balearic residents have simply given-up eating beef.

Fear of mad cow disease has prompted more than a third of Spaniards to quit eating beef and the vast majority want tighter controls on animal feed, a newspaper survey published yesterday showed. Some 38 percent of the 800 sample group surveyed by a newspaper said they had given up eating beef since Spain's first mad cow case was detected last November. Altogether 63 percent of Spaniards blamed animal-based feeds for spreading bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and 98 percent said controls on such feed should be revised following mad cow disease which has spread across Europe. So far 24 BSE cases have been confirmed in Spain, but scientists and officials fear the tally will rise as testing becomes more widespread. Scientists believe BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease, can spread to humans who eat infected beef products. The poll, with an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percent, was conducted among a range of adults across Spain. In the Balearics demand for beef has nose-dived since the announcement last week that a cow died of BSE in Minorca. The local government, in conjunction with the ministry for Agriculture, has launched a major drive to stem the disease and all cattle which came into contact with the infected animal are to be slaughtered. The Balearic government says that all beef on sale here is safe but consumers are taking no notice. “Beef has become a bad word,” said one local butcher yesterday. Local farmers are calling on the local government for massive investment to help them overcome the BSE scare. Many local farmers say that they are facing bankruptcy. Minorca's once buoyant agriculture industry is in the depths of recession as it battles BSE and the Blue Tongue virus which decimated local sheep herds. And farmers believe that even if a solution is found for the Mad Cow crisis it will be years before the public has the necessary confidence to start eating beef again. Local supermarkets still have beef on sale but the majority is imported from Argentina. “People are simply taking beef out of their diet. Children are no longer eating hamburgers and steaks are not being bought,” said the local butcher who said that they were facing one of the worst meat crisis he has ever known. Many Spaniards believe that if the government had taken action earlier the problem could have been resolved years ago. “Now we just have to pay the consequences,” said the butcher.