Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, September 10, 1998 Published at 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK


Vet warned BSE would be 'problem'

Beef was never considered as a problem for humans

A former government Chief Veterinary Officer has told the public inquiry into BSE that he feared the disease could become a "major problem" for the cattle industry.

Howard Rees was in charge of the service when the first BSE cases were discovered, but did not consider it a problem for humans and did not stop eating beef himself.

He was giving evidence as one of the most outspoken critics of the handling of the crisis warned the government that their policy was still wrong.

Professor Richard Lacey was launching a book on the subject at a scientific conference in Cardiff.

Vet had no enthusiasm

In his evidence to the inquiry Mr Rees said he first became aware of BSE in late November 1986.

By May 1987 he knew of five confirmed cases but told the inquiry: "I didn't share with scientists their enthusiasm for the discovery of a new disease.

"I thought if this wasn't an isolated case we might have a major problem. I was concerned about the effect on the industry."

He decided that discovering how the disease was passed on was the key to tackling it, and on 5 June, 1987 first informed ministers after deciding it was a "national problem".

[ image: Chief vet never stopped eating beef]
Chief vet never stopped eating beef
Almost a year later, as he left his post in May 1988, he received a report linking meat and bone-meal in animal feed and BSE, and suggested a voluntary ban on such substances.

The then Agriculture Secretary, John MacGregor, later decided a compulsory ban was needed.

The vet said at that stage it was believed it would be far harder for the disease to transfer to humans than it had been for it to cross from sheep.

But Mr Rees told the inquiry that earlier in 1988 it had been decided to recommend to ministers that a slaughter and compensation policy should be introduced for cattle with BSE, and it should be made a "notifiable" disease.

He added that he had been worried a lack of funding would hamper efforts to control BSE.

The next sitting of the public inquiry will be on 17 September, but its report is not due until June 1999.

Lacey dismisses sheep link

As the inquiry continued hearing evidence in Lambeth, south London, the government was being told that the danger was far from over.

[ image: Professor Lacey: Sheep link is
Professor Lacey: Sheep link is "smokescreen"
Professor Richard Lacey, the scientist who warned of the dangers of BSE before the crisis was revealed by the Government, addressed a scientific conference in Cardiff to launch his latest book, Poison on a Plate.

He believes that recent scare stories about the possibilities of BSE in sheep are an attempt to divert attention from the more important issues.

He can find no evidence of a link with sheep and says talk of one damages the government committee's credibility.

Professor Lacey is adamant that there are still massive risks from eating beef and claims there has been a "systematic cover-up" by the government and scientists about the dangers in the food Britons eat.

His lecture at the annual Festival of Science in Cardiff was attended by farmers, some of whom accused him of contributing to the decline of their business.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Relevant Stories

09 Sep 98 | BSE
Official 'scuppered' BSE plan

07 Sep 98 | Health
BSE in sheep: an unknown quantity

Internet Links

BSE Inquiry

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online