As governments across Europe tried to calm public fears over mad cow disease, Balearic and mainland cattle farmers brought meat production to a virtual halt yesterday to demand more compensation for losses caused by the deadly disease. The Balearic government has gone on the record saying that there are no mad cow cases in the region, but consumer confidence in beef is still low and the government's confidence is only based on the results of two tests carried out on cattle aged over 30 months. The island's cattle herds are not due to be tested until a widespread campaign is launched at the start of next month. Agricultural confederation COAG, one of five groups coordinating the blockades and protests said further action was planned across Spain. “This unprecedented crisis is a problem for the state, bearing in mind it could completely ruin many farmers,” the agricultural confederation COAG said in a statement. The Spanish government has drawn up a £200 million emergency plan to improve controls against BSE and compensate farmers for lost income. But COAG called for “concrete solutions” to the crisis, without elaborating. It was not immediately known how much of the $300 million package would be for compensation. Beef sales have plummeted in the Balearics and on mainland Spain since the first of five mad cow cases was discovered in November. Eating tainted meat is believed to cause the human variant of the fatal brain-wasting disease, which has no known cure.

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