French agriculture minister Jean Glavany indicated that France is not sure whether it will lift its ban on British beef, despite the ruling of the European Court of Justice. He cited a report of the EU's Food and Veterinary Office that casts doubts on the efficiency of BSE testing in the UK, and said his government's decision would be solely based on the principal of precaution.
Mr Glavany said that France took note of the ruling by the European Court of Justice, but that the protection of French consumers was the only thing that mattered. He justified France's attitude by referring to the conclusion of the Veterinary Office report, which states the following: "Most of the relevant legislation whose transposition and implementation should have been checked during this mission was neither transposed nor implemented on the spot. As active surveillance is practically not performed, it has to be assumed that the BSE incidence for GB has to be seen with a considerable degree of uncertainty."
France wants Britain to test all cattle older than 30 months, in order to get a more accurate picture of the BSE situation. At the moment, only animals destined for food production have to be tested, although the UK also tests random samples of other cattle.
The leader of the UK's National Farmers' Union, Ben Gill, said France's unilateral ban led to heavy losses for British farmers and demanded "punitive fines" if it failed to end the ban.
The spokesman of the Agriculture Secretary, Margaret Beckett, said the Court's judgement was clear: "The judgment went against France. France should obey the law."