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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 15:20 GMT
Industry welcomes end of beef ban
Cow and calf
Scotland's beef export market has suffered over the past decade
The European Union's decision to lift its 10-year ban on British beef has been hailed by farmers and Scotland's rural development minister.

The ban was introduced in 1996 to combat the spread of BSE, otherwise known as mad cow disease.

Minister Ross Finnie said the move was "excellent news" for the Scottish beef industry.

The National Farmers Union Scotland and Quality Meat Scotland said the move would help rebuild the export market.

At a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, the EU's food chain and animal health committee voted unanimously in favour of lifting restrictions on the import of British beef, beef products and live cattle.

Ross Finnie
The task before us all is to take full advantage of our well deserved reputation for producing superior quality cattle
Ross Finnie
Rural Development Minister

It is believed the export trade, which is worth 130m to the Scottish economy, could resume in about six weeks time.

Mr Finnie said: "The Scottish Executive already has this in hand but I recognise that much hard work will be required on all parts to win back markets and develop new ones.

"The task before us all is to take full advantage of our well deserved reputation for producing superior quality cattle.

'Victory for diplomacy'

"I look forward to working with Quality Meat Scotland and other interested organisations to ensure that Scotch Beef is once more the product of choice for European consumers too."

NFU Scotland president John Kinnaird described the move as a victory for diplomacy and said it was a major confidence boost for beef producers across Scotland.

"The return of Scotch beef to European dinner tables is a huge boost for farmers, the rural economy and European consumers," he added.

Industry leaders said lifting the ban heralded "a new dawn"

"It's just reward for the massive amount of work the Scottish beef sector has put in over the last 10 years to escape the dark shadow cast by BSE."

Quality Meat Scotland interim chairman Donald Biggar said the announcement signalled a new dawn for the industry, which had operated "under the cloud" of an effective ban on a fifth of its market.

He added: "We know we have a long way to go before we are selling the volumes of Scotch beef into Europe that we were 10 years ago, but the work to rebuild this important trade has already begun."

The Scottish National Party's rural development spokesman Richard Lochhead said: "This brings to an end a very difficult period.

"Scottish beef has an international reputation for quality and the challenge is now to get our beef back on European shelves as soon as possible."

We feel dairy farmers would alienate themselves from the public if they were to resume this unethical trade
Ross Minett
Advocates for Animals

Scottish Tory agriculture spokesman Alex Fergusson said: "This is an overdue vote of confidence in Scotch beef for which producers have been waiting far too long.

"In order to make best use of the lifting of the ban it is now important to drive forward a resumption of live exports which would give a similar boost to the dairy sector."

However, Advocates for Animals said exported calves would suffer long journeys and were likely to be reared on the continent in systems that have been banned in Scotland on welfare grounds.

Director Ross Minett said: "We are aware of the pressures currently faced by dairy farmers but we feel they would alienate themselves from the public if they were to resume this unethical trade."

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