Beef Crisis

Beef Crisis in Europe

Description of Beef crisis

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes beef crisis in the following terms: [1] In 1996 British experts announced a possible link between BSE, or ‘mad cow’ disease, and a new strain of the fatal human brain illness, CJD. The scientific evidence was obscure and the number of reported human cases minuscule (see more in this European encyclopedia). Nevertheless, outrage and panic ensued. The outrage came because BSE was more prevalent in England than elsewhere and the link with CJD had previously been officially denied. The panic was caused by predictions of a plague-like epidemic. In reality, BSE was on the wane, among its possible causes being pesticides and the overfeeding of British dairy cattle with sheep and cattle remains in the 1980s.

The EU inflamed the crisis by prohibiting exports of British beef, including exports to non-EU countries. The then British government responded by threatening to bring the workings of the Community to a halt. This brought forth a half-promise to lift the ban progressively, provided the UK culled potentially affected cattle at a cost of several billion pounds. Despite the resultant slaughter the EU’s ban remained, and British anger turned against the Community, which was perceived as favouring Continental farmers and breaching the principles of the single market. The affair, from which no party emerged well, soured relations within the EU and led to a welter of mutual accusations of insanitary practices, misreporting of BSE and evasion of import restrictions. In 1999, after a favourable ruling by a European scientific panel, British beef was declared safe (see more in this European encyclopedia). But France defied Community law by continuing its ban, to the intense frustration of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who had pinned his hopes on a friendly settlement of the dispute.


Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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