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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 13:10 GMT
France set for mass cattle slaughter
French cows
French farms cannot cope with their burgeoning herds
France has unveiled a radical plan to tackle the crisis over mad cow disease, by slaughtering up to 10,000 cattle every week.

Cattle herds have been building up on farms across France as the market for beef has collapsed.

Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said on Thursday he would also be demanding extra European Union cash later this month to compensate French farmers hit by the crisis.

Italian farmers' protest
Farmers across Europe have taken to the streets in protest
Beef sales have plummeted in France and elsewhere in Europe as fears over mad cow disease, or BSE, have spread.

"If Brussels refuses to listen to the distress of French farmers, I will assume my responsibilities, in agreement with the prime minister, and we will re-examine the situation," Mr Glavany said in a statement.

For now, the priority would be to "speed up the removal of animals which are currently in excessive numbers on farms because of the lack of buyers."

The ministry will also increase health and customs controls to prevent greater instability of the French market, the statement said.

Cattle market in Spain
Thousands of animals have been left unsold
New testing measures came into force across the EU in January in a bid to restore consumer confidence, but markets have not recovered.

Further emergency measures were announced by Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler on Tuesday, designed to reduce the glut of cattle and boost non-intensive farming methods.

Farmers in France have stepped up their protests demanding compensation, blockading roads and burning one consignment of foreign beef.

'Disastrous'

The National Federation of Farmers' Unions described the current situation as "disastrous".

It wants farmers to get between FFr 1,000 and 3,500 ($140-491) in compensation for each cow sold during the crisis.

In a separate development, France's food safety agency has demanded tighter safeguards on sheep and goat products, because of the "hypothetical" risk that they too could be infected BSE.

The agency said brains from sheep and goats aged more than six months should be banned for human consumption - down from a one-year age limit - and urged that all spleen and intestines from the animals should be destroyed.

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See also:

13 Feb 01 | Europe
EC outlines mad cow package
31 Jan 01 | Europe
Germany to kill 400,000 cows
26 Jan 01 | Europe
UN: World at risk from BSE
23 Dec 00 | Europe
Global alert on BSE
02 Feb 01 | Europe
Germany's mad cow laboratory
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