Scientists in New Zealand believe they have identified the cause of the spread of BSE in the UK: antelope imported into southwest England in the 1970s that were destined for safari parks.

The revelation is a marked departure from previous thought, which blamed scrapie-infected sheep or genetic mutation for the disease. Once in the tourist attractions, the antelopes suffered similar degenerative diseases and the scientists now believe that at some point their remains were used in cattle feed.

Identifying the source of mad cow disease has occupied scientists for many years, and experts have still not categorically proved how the disease is spread, or how it is connected to the deadly human equivalent vCJD (Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease).