My Department is continuing its investigations following confirmation of BSE in an animal born in 1999. This animal was discovered when the herd cohorts of a 1993-born infected animal were slaughtered and tested for the disease. In this, as in all other BSE cases, my Department is conducting an in-depth analysis of all possible sources of infectivity. It has not, to date, drawn any final conclusions on the source of the infection of this animal. In so far as the controls are concerned, they are the most stringent being applied anywhere. They consist of the removal of SRM from the human food and animal feed chains; ante and post mortem inspections at all meat plants; whole herd depopulation; tracing and culling of birth cohorts and progeny of BSE-infected animals; a ban on feeding meat and bonemeal to all farmed animals intended for human consumption and compulsory notification of the disease.
Up to a few years ago, as those familiar with farming practices will be aware, casualty or fallen animals were sometimes buried on farms or even, in some situations, left unburied but in most cases they were disposed of to local knackeries or other outlets such as foxhound packs. All of that practice has now ceased and there is a comprehensive collection system in operation. Even though such fallen animals are clearly not destined for the human food chain, they are all tested as part of a comprehensive, active surveillance programme among all cattle over 30 months of age, all casualty cattle over 24 months of age in meat plants and all fallen cattle over 24 months of age in knackeries. Since 1 January, 2001, more than 1.3 million cattle have been tested, of which more than 600,000 were aged between 30 and 48 months. With all of those tests, only one animal, a 45 months old bull in County Limerick, was found to be positive.
Against that background, the fact that the age profile of animals in which the disease is confirmed is increasing is a reflection of the success of the additional controls introduced as technology evolves. As a result, the incidence of BSE will decline further as older animals leave the system.