The slaughter of 400,000 cattle has been approved by the German cabinet today as part of a EU-wide “purchase and destroy” programme designed to alleviate the market pressures caused by mad cow disease. The programme is estimated to cost DM647m.

Consumer concern over BSE has led to a near collapse of the beef market, and about 1.5 million cattle that cannot be sold for food will be purchased by European governments and slaughtered. The animals cannot be stored as meat because of the expense involved in refrigeration.

Renate Kuenast, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister, revealed that she had ethical objections to the proposal, but would support it nevertheless.