Tests carried out on four cows culled at farm with BSE case

Tests are being carried out on the carcasses of four cows destroyed at the Aberdeenshire farm where a case of BSE was found, MSPs have been told.

The animals were said to have been culled as a precaution earlier this week, with the carcasses taken to the south of Scotland for “sampling and disposal”.

The results of that analysis are expected to be available in a few days’ time.

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It emerged in mid-October that an isolated case of BSE, known in full as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, had been found at a farm in the Huntly area.

A movement ban was immediately put in place at the farm as investigators worked to determine the source, and it emerged some other animals would need to be slaughtered purely as a precautionary basis.

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Officials have stressed there is no risk to public health.

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During a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Conservative MSP Peter Chapman sought an update on the investigations into whether the four other cows “are infected or not”.

Elinor Mitchell, director for agriculture and rural economy at the Scottish Government, responded: “The evaluations of the animals affected were completed on the farm on the 26th of October.

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“Yesterday (Tuesday), the three cohort animals and the one offspring were culled on the farm.

“The carcasses have been transported for sampling and disposal to Dumfries.

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“The screening results will be available at the end of this week.

“If any of them prove positive then those carcasses will be transported to the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) Weybridge offices (in Surrey) for further testing.”

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Mr Chapman expressed satisfaction with the development, saying: “I think that’s good. We’re absolutely sure, certain, that there are no other potential animals that could be infected.

“It’s just the immediate offspring of this particular cow and we know exactly where they are and they have now been taken out.”

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Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said it was “hugely disappointing” to have the confirmed case of BSE and said it is right that investigations take time.

He said: “There is no risk to consumer health and the Scottish Government have activated plans to protect food safety and, of course, our valuable farming industry.”

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He later spoke of the importance of the “very effective surveillance regime” in bringing the case to light.

Mr Ewing told MSPs: “We’ve got that. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have detected the case and goodness knows what the consequences of that would have been.”

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The farmer whose cow was found to have BSE previously said he had taken pride in doing everything correctly and it was “heartbreaking” to be told the dead animal had the disease after routine testing.

Scotland’s chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas has said she believes the disease was not transmitted, and occurred spontaneously in the affected animal.