The UK government has pledged to examine around 23,000 sheep brains for signs of BSE and the related disease scrapie.

Attempts to carry out similar examinations have to date proved disastrous. Last month it emerged that scientists from the Institute of Animal Health conducting a four-year study on whether sheep could contract BSE had actually been testing material from cow’s brains.

The Government’s Veterinary Laboratory Agency will conduct the new research, and scientists will look for signs of diseases under in the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies family.