The UK dominated the committee that set the direction for the handling of BSE in the early 1990s, i.e. during the beginning of the disinformation campaign on BSE revealed by Foodwire. The British could use this fact to cover up on BSE and direct the EC/EU handling of the disease.

As much as 55 per cent of the members – five out of nine – in the Scientific Veterinary Committee were British. Moreover, the chairman was usually British. And, by coincidence or not, the Commission official taking notes at the meetings was also British. This is displayed by the EU Parliament inquiry.

This committee was supposed to be made up of members from each member state. But the British were allowed to dominate the very meetings that were dealing with BSE, because they had the biggest experience of the disease.

The advice from this Scientific Veterinary Committee later became the foundation for decisions taken in the Standing Veterinary Committee, the committee which discussed disinformation and covering up of the BSE question, as Foodwire has revealed. It had the Council’s orders to handle the veterinary issues that did not have any political value, even if the formal decisions were later taken by the EC Commission.

It is obvious that BSE had a major political significance then, too. But as long as the British could use their dominance to acquire a majority in BSE matters, the question was never passed on to the Council. Moreover, the Council did not try to regain the initiative from the Standing Veterinary Committee.

The EU Parliament gives the Council part of the responsibility for the EC/EU fiasco in halting the disease, together with the Commission, the Scientific Veterinary Committee, and the Standing Veterinary Committee. But the Parliament puts the biggest blame on “those who sought to take over the decision-making process”. That implies the government of the United Kingdom.

However, the Parliament concludes that it is very difficult to decide exactly who is responsible for what, due to the lack of transparency and the intricate system with committees.

Today, the Scientific Veterinary Committee is replaced by other committees, and spokespeople for the Commission claim that it has learned the lessons pointed out by the Parliamentary inquiry. But the Standing Veterinary Committee still stands, and it still has a lot of power. And whatever said behind its door remains secret.

Roger Falk, Brussels, reporter for Foodwire