The anti-Blue Tongue virus campaign continued yesterday in Majorca and Minorca while the Balearic Minister for Agriculture denied that the virus had spread to Ibiza. It was revealed yesterday that 50 sheep at a farm in Santa Gertrudis were sacrificed two weeks ago, but according to the Insular Council of Ibiza's agricultural department, the animals were put down as a precaution and the tests for the virus have proved negative. The 50 sheep showed symptoms that appeared to match those of the killer Blue Tongue virus and were slaughtered. But while Blue Tongue virus has been ruled out, the agricultural department is eager to establish what affected the sheep and an investigation has been launched. The Balearic Ministry for Agriculture said yesterday that at the moment “no one can afford to let their guard down” and encouraged livestock farmers to continue complying with the preventative measures. Sources in the local government's animal health department confirmed yesterday that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Balearic lamb and that the virus poses no threat to consumers. But as British and French farmers know all too well, any form of health scare on this level is seriously damaging on the high street. British beef farmers have yet to recover from BSE and now the French are having to face up to the consequences of mad cow as are the Portuguese. Sources in the animal health department fear that the Blue Tongue virus could be the “ruin” of the local lamb industry. Fresh scares in Ibiza and widespread tests to be carried out on local cattle herds next week, in order to confirm that the virus has not been transmitted, do nothing to install consumer confidence and the well advertised importation of lamb from Wales just serves to confirm the consumers' scepticism about the safety of eating local lamb. “If there's nothing wrong with local lamb, why have supermarkets been importing foreign lamb,” one shopper said yesterday. The local government is to launch a campaign to try and revive consumer confidence and save the local lamb industry from complete ruin, but it is not only the local high street market which has been hit, so have exports and the overseas market, which has been forced to turn to new suppliers, and may decide to remain with its safe market.

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