Some Japanese farmers are illegally disposing of old or unproductive cattle, which are thought to run a higher risk of contracting BSE.

On 18 October 2001, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry ordered that all cattle older than 30 months old must be checked for the disease before they are processed into meat.

There are more than 50,000 such cattle in the country; farmers are reluctant to take them to market and meat-processing facilities refuse to accept them. More than 10% of such operations in Japan are strictly limiting the number of aging and unproductive dairy cows they accept.

The facilities that produce meat-and-bone meal (MBM) are also refusing to take dead cattle since the government introduced a ban in October on the production and distribution of MBM.

As a result, officials have expressed concern that the animals may be being illegally disposed of.