Victory for UK farmers in beef ban battle

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: British beef, Law

The National Farmers Union has finally won its hard-fought legal
action against the French ban on British beef, the UK group
announced on Monday.

The highest civil court in France ruled that the country was wrong to continue to block imports of British beef once the European Commission lifted its BSE ban in August 1999.

NFU president Sir Ben Gill praised the judgement in the Conseil d'Etat that ends nearly four years of legal wrangling. The NFU has been awarded costs of €3,000, the maximum available under French law.

France was the only country to continue to stop the import of British beef after the Commission ban was lifted and continued to do so until October 2002.

Sir Ben said: "France's unlawful ban tarnished the image of British beef in the eyes of French and European consumers.

"The purpose of challenging the French government in its own courts was to show the world that not only was the French action illegal in a technical sense, it was also plain wrong.

"This is a significant victory for British farmers. The safety of British beef has been vindicated once and for all."

The action was started by the NFU on behalf of British farmers in early 2000.

France was the biggest market for British beef before the BSE ban, accounting for half of all exports to the EU. Approximately 106,000 tonnes worth £240 million were sent there in 1995.

Sir Ben added that the NFU has already sought legal counsel on the possibility of claiming damages for British farmers but has been advised that a number of factors would make such a bid unsuccessful.

These include the fact that the bulk of exports to France prior to the BSE ban consisted of beef from older animals. These continued to be blocked from export even after the Commission ban was lifted.

"We believe our legal action has achieved its overall aim because it has been an important contributory factor in boosting the image of our beef in France as well as the wider world."​ concluded Sir Gill.

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