U.K. Farmer Heartbroken as More Cows to be Killed After BSE Case

A case of “classical” Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) has left a Scottish farmer devastated and could change the BSE risk status for Scotland, potentially impacting trade. ( Multimedia Graphic Network, Inc. )

Officials in the United Kingdom plan to euthanize more cows on a farm in Scotland where Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered.

The finding of BSE, also known as mad cow disease, has left the farm owner Thomas Jackson feeling devastated and heartbroken.

Officials from the U.K. revealed that a five-year old beef cow on Jackson’s farm near Lumsden, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, had been positively confirmed to be a carrier of classical BSE. This was the first discovery of BSE in the U.K. in three years.

Through a statement with National Farmers Union Scotland, Jackson says, “This has been a very difficult time for myself and my wife and we have found the situation personally devastating.”

The Scottish farm expresses that he has taken great pride in breeding close herd for many years while doing things correctly.

“To find through the surveillance system in place that one of our cows has BSE has been heartbreaking,” Jackson says. “Since this has happened we have been fully cooperating with all the parties involved and will continue to do so as we, like everyone, want to move forward and clear up this matter.”

Four more cows on the farm could be euthanized and tested for the disease according to Scotland’s chief veterinarian Sheila Voas. The farm has also been quarantined. Additional tests could take months to determine how the BSE was transmitted, according to an interview Voas did with BBC.

“All the information we have is this is under control, there’s no reason for people to panic. It’s not the start of an outbreak, it’s a single isolated case that won’t affect the food chain,” Voas says.

BSE was first discovered in the U.K. in 1986, by 1995 the first recorded human death occurred. After that time a total of 178 people were believed to have died in the U.K. related to BSE. There were an estimated 180,000 cattle infected and it forced the slaughter of 4.4 million cattle total to further eradicate the disease.

Cases of BSE have fallen drastically in the U.K. with 16 occurring since 2011. Prior to the recent case, Scotland had been free of BSE since 2009.

Livestock experts like Jude Capper, an animal scientist from the U.K., points to improvements made in surveillance and making it illegal to feed animal derived proteins to ruminants.

“Unfortunate that a single (rare) BSE case confirmed, but, on the positive side, great to see that modern disease surveillance systems allow for quick detection and control, and that food safety is unaffected. Some valuable lessons were learned 30 years ago,” Capper says on Twitter.

The discovery of BSE in Scotland has not impacted any trade deals at this point. However, British beef just reentered China following a ban on trade because of BSE. It is unclear how the latest BSE case will impact the U.K. and China’s trade deal on beef.

Portions of the U.K., including England and Wales, were already deemed as “controlled BSE risk status” by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). It is likely that OIE will change Scotland’s risk status since the last update was made in May 2017.

The “classical” or “typical” form of BSE has been shown to be derived from cattle fed contaminated feed. There have been no cattle born in the U.S. to show the “classical” form, but there have been several “atypical” cases including a recent case in Florida discovered in August. Atypical BSE is different than classical BSE, and it generally occurs in older cattle and seems to arise rarely and spontaneously in all cattle populations.

A map of the BSE risk status areas in the U.K. can be found below:

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