Farmers take beef ban challenge to ECJ

The meat industry may be worried over the effect of mad cow disease on their trade but the awareness of BSE has spawned a new area of litigation and more work for lawyers.

Some of that litigation is already under way. On 9 April this column focused on the case of Lancashire-based Great Harwood Food Products and its confrontation with the Government over a ban on the use of cattle vertebrae in meat removed from the bones of carcasses. Great Harwood won the right to seek review of the ban.

Now new BSE litigation has emerged. Farmers and meat traders have won High Court consent to challenge the legality of the European Union's worldwide export ban on British beef.

Mr Justice Turner has given the National Farmers' Union and other meat industry representatives the go-ahead to refer the ban to the European Court of Justice.

When the case reaches the European Court the judges will be asked to decide whether the ban imposed by the European Commission is disproportionate or a misuse of power. The judge has also agreed to allow the International Meat Traders' Association and the British

Association of Sheep Exporters to intervene to make their submissions to the court.

Mr Justice Turner gave leave for the further interventions after being told by David Vaughan QC, for the IMTA and the BASE, that the beef ban was having a knock-on effect on the British meat exporting industry around the world.

He told the judge that the ban was affecting not just beef and beef products but meat in general, a matter overlooked by European legislators when introducing the beef ban.