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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 01:52 GMT
Germany to send beef to North Korea
carcasses
German beef will be tested for BSE before shipment
The German Government has confirmed it intends to donate unwanted meat from 200,000 cattle to North Korea, following the collapse of the beef market in Germany over BSE, or mad cow disease.


I wouldn't want us to send beef that would only be available to a few

German agriculture minister
A spokeswoman for German Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast said North Korea - which has a severe shortage of food - would be asked to confirm if it actually wanted the beef and how it could be distributed fairly among the population.

She made it clear that the meat would be tested for BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) before it was shipped.

The number of confirmed cases of BSE in Germany rose on Monday to 32 since the first was discovered in November last year.

Free access

Consumers have deserted beef in droves - officials said 169,300 cattle were slaughtered in December - 51.4% less than in the same month the previous year.

Negotiations are to begin this week with international aid organisations and the North Korean Government.

In an interview published in Monday's edition of the daily Mannheimer Morgan, Ms Kuenast said that the meat would be sent to North Korea if it was shared out fairly, and if international humanitarian organisations had free access to the country.

"We are going to ask them whether they need it and how it would be distributed," she told the newspaper. "I wouldn't want us to send beef that would only be available to a few."

Cruelty charge

Germany plans to slaughter up to 400,000 older cattle under a European Union programme to prop up beef prices.

Infected carcass
Infected animals are being destroyed throughout Europe
But this has prompted a German animal rights group to ask state prosecutors to examine whether Ms Kuenast could be charged with being an accessory to cruelty of animals.

Animal Protection Federation president Wolfgang Apel told the French news agency AFP that it wanted healthy animals to be used not destroyed.

The German Government has gone further than most other European countries, by introducing compulsory testing for cows of 24 months or older.

It has also called for the culling of all cows in a herd in which BSE is identified.

Ms Kuenast pledged a tough line on consumer protection after her predecessor and the country's health minister stepped down over the botched handling of the crisis.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
"It's being criticised from within the German government"

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See also:

31 Jan 01 | Europe
Germany to kill 400,000 cows
05 Jan 01 | Europe
Fresh ban on European beef
01 Dec 00 | Europe
Germany approves animal feed ban
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