December 02, 2003
UK's National Farmers' Union Won Legal Action Against French Ban on British Beef
The Britain National Farmers' Union (NFU) has won its legal action against the French ban on British beef after four years of legal wrangling.
The highest civil court in France has 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 Ben Gill praised the judgement in the Conseil d'Etat.
But the NFU has been awarded costs of just 3,000 euros (£2070), the maximum available under French law.
"France's unlawful ban tarnished the image of British beef in the eyes of French and European consumers," said Sir Ben.
"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 tons worth £240 million were sent there in 1995.
The NFU has already sought legal counsel on the possibility of claiming damages for British farmers.
Sir Ben added that unfortunately, it 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," said Sir Ben.
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.