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Swiss resume cattle exports

Seven Swiss cows left for Bavaria on February 1 Keystone Archive

Switzerland is exporting live cattle to a European country for the first time since the height of the BSE crisis in 1996.

Seven cows left for Bavaria, Germany, on February 1, and the Federal Veterinary Office expects other EU countries to lift bans on Swiss beef in the near future.

In 1996, Germany, like many other countries, blocked imports of Swiss beef, beef by-products, dairy goods and cows. The ban was imposed after British scientists announced a possible link between BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and the fatal human brain disease, vCJD (variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease).

Although the EU never imposed a collective ban on Swiss cattle, individual member states decided to stop live imports from Switzerland. Germany actually lifted this ban last year.

“We think that we will be able to export to all EU countries shortly,” said Christoph Jaggi of the Federal Veterinary Office.

The cows from Kreuzlingen in canton Thurgau are obliged to carry passports issued by the Federal Veterinary Office, containing information about their origin.

The embargo on Swiss beef was imposed following the discovery of 68 cases of BSE, or mad cow disease, in the country. Prior to 1996, Switzerland exported an estimated 15,000 cattle per year.

With an average price of SFr2,500 per cow, the export ban on Swiss beef resulted in a loss in revenue of more than SFr25 million.

However, Switzerland was not as hard hit as Britain, which was by far the worst affected country with over 160,000 recorded cases of BSE by the time the ban was introduced.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR