The word “scandal” no longer applies to Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis. It is not strong enough to describe the situation. After the recent news that Portugal was to kill 20,000 cows as part of its responsibilities to protect public health after years of abuse, feeding cows with protein feed, the figure has more than doubled, as the European union tries to control the crisis. This means that 50,000 head of cattle will have to be destroyed by March as the European Union implants its policy of slaughtering animals of 30 months or more. Capoulas Santos, the Portuguese Agriculture Minister, said that this policy gave guarantees that public confidence in beef could be restored. This will be important for the Portuguese beef industry, since sales of beef have dropped dramatically. The problem now is that due to the decrease in demand for beef, the demand for pork has risen and now dubious protein feeds are being used to fatten pigs in three months. He also stated that in Portugal, public health was protected by the veterinary body not having tried to hide the truth, which happened in other EU countries with tragic results. In the United Kingdom, for instance, it is forecast that by 2003, the death rate by BSE could be as high as one per day. The UK is not alone. Now it is discovered than in Italy, feed given to cattle has included the illegal pulverised bones, brains and cartilage which was banned by the EU in 1994. This practice was found in Verona but this is not the only place in Italy where the law was broken, putting the next two generations of human beings at risk from BSE. In Sardinia, bags of feed with vestiges of pulverised carcasses was found last Wednesday. The same happened in Macerata. Whoever had the grand idea of feeding herbivores with the pulverised carcasses of their same breed must have been mentally advanced. Whoever continues to feed cows with feed which is proved to be dangerous is a criminal. Public health is at risk as the demand for meat is greater than the capacity to produce it and the answer to this demand is an idiotic short-term measure invented in some laboratory, no doubt, one does not know where, nor does one want to know. Whoever is responsible should be ashamed.


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