North Korea Would Risk "Mad Cows" to Ease Hunger

Asks Germany to Donate 400,000 Head of Cattle

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ROME, FEB. 16, 2001 ( North Korea has asked Germany to send it, as a humanitarian donation, 400,000 head of cattle which would otherwise be destroyed because of the «mad cow» disease scare.

The Vatican agency Fides reported that the Communist regime is prepared to run the risk of spreading BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) among its population, in order to placate the famine that has plagued the country since 1994.

Fides sources confirmed that Pyongyang´s request was presented to the German humanitarian agency Cap Anamur, to be sent officially to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in Berlin.

According to Manfred Haertl, president of the Federation of German Butchers, there are 200,000 head of cattle which have passed the BSE test, but will be killed and incinerated because of the decrease of beef consumption. Missionary sources criticized the plans, telling Fides that throwing away good meat «is an insult to Providence.»

Kathie Zellweger, director of Caritas-Hong Kong aid distribution, which has worked to help North Korea since 1994, said: «This is not advertising, this is a proof of the gravity of the situation in North Korea. Nourishment is totally unbalanced; children in particular suffer from serious protein and fat deficiency. To kill thousands of head of cattle when there are people dying of hunger is a sin: They should test all the beasts and only kill the infected ones. This request is a signal that North Korea is desperate.»

Duncan MacLaren, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis in Rome, made a humanitarian mission to North Korea in 2000.

He recalled that «there was a suggestion to send some of the meat, after testing for security, to the poorer peoples of Europe.» However, he added, «I am doubtful whether it would be lawful. We certainly do not want to poison the people of North Korea, or those of the Southern Hemisphere. I think there are better and safer ways to help them.»

On behalf of Aid to the Church in Need, Hans Peter Rothlin, the organization´s international president in Germany, told Fides: «Today North Korea starves while we incinerate cows. It is easy for us to run off a long list of reasons why the meat should not be sent.»

Rothlin said he favors sending the meat if it is possible to give North Korea the guarantee that only healthy meat will be shipped, which can be done thanks to BSE tests.

Quoting sources from the U.N. World Food Program, Fides explained that even if there is an excess of safe meat in Germany, the request might not be heeded, because «the government of the receiver country must take responsibility for accepting the goods; the operation must be totally covered financially.»

Fides also explained that famine-struck North Korea is ready for anything to help feed its starving people. This is clear from its willingness to store 200,000 barrels of highly dangerous radioactive nuclear waste, a job for which Taiwan would pay $220 million. A 1997 contract is being renewed, and Taiwan Power Corporation has already set aside 60,000 tons of nuclear waste to transfer to the Communist state, despite objections from Beijing and Seoul. The latter is only 60 miles from the «remote» coal mine in Hwanghae province, where the North Korean government plans to bury the toxic waste.

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