HC Deb 19 March 1998 vol 308 cc727-8W
Mr. Levitt

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made with the selective cull of cattle; and if he will make a statement. [35686]

Mr. Rooker

In Great Britain, we have contacted all the herds in which BSE cases were born and sought to identify animals which were exposed to the same feed as these cases. Where these animals have been sold off the farm of origin, we have tried to trace and locate them. Not surprisingly, given the age of the animals, we have found that about 156,000 animals have already been slaughtered, including those taken under the Over Thirty Months Scheme. But under the selective cull we have identified and slaughtered about 66,000 animals to date. A further 10,000 animals have been traced but not yet slaughtered, including a number for which the owner has the option to offer them but has not so far done so.

In addition, in Northern Ireland all the 1,461 animals to be taken under the cull have been slaughtered. As a result, the total to date for the United Kingdom is over 67,000. All these animals attract the special rates of compensation payable under this scheme.

It is now estimated that the total number slaughtered under the selective cull will be about 80,000-85,000. We are determined to finish the cull as quickly as we can and are continuing to treat it as a high priority. The last stages will focus on tracing animals which have moved from their natal herd. This is a time-consuming and difficult task, made more difficult by the lack of the computerised cattle tracing system which we are now developing. Progress on the cull will inevitably become slower, as increasingly often it is single animals that have to be tracked down. However we expect to complete the whole work by the autumn.

The selective cull has been an enormous task. Farmers themselves have made a substantial contribution. It has been an unwelcome and for many a distressing task. We are grateful for their co-operation and their recognition that this has been an essential step in fulfilling the Florence preconditions.