JAPAN-Local governments to carry on BSE testing despite subsidy cutsEvery local government across the country with meat inspection facilities will continue to test all beef cows for mad cow disease during the next fiscal year, a Mainichi survey has found.The finding comes despite the central government’s abolition of about 200 million yen in annual subsidies to local governments for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) tests. Japan is the only country where all beef cows are tested for the disease.In August 2005, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry deemed that there is no need for BSE tests on cows 20 months old or younger, on the grounds that no cow born before January 2002 has been found infected with BSE and that there is little chance of finding BSE in such young cows even if they have been infected.Nevertheless, the ministry had extended subsidies to local governments conducting BSE tests on all beef cows until July last year.Officials in charge at all 77 prefectural and municipal governments that have beef inspection facilities said they will continue BSE tests on all beef cows in fiscal 2009.Among the reasons given was the need to "maintain the brand image of their locally produced beef" and "prevent confusion in the marketing process."However, 30 government bodies said that there was no discussion on whether to continue testing. The survey also suggested that governments tend to abide by the policy of their peers and requests from local residents."It would take a lot of nerve to stop it while other prefectures are continuing it," said an official at the Akita Prefectural Government."We’d like to stop it but we can’t gain support from local residents," a Miyagi Prefectural Government representative said. An official at the Yokohama Municipal Government said that the national government needs to take the initiative in convincing the public of the safety of beef.The Toyohashi Municipal Government in Aichi Prefecture called on the national government to organize a nationwide BSE testing system. "Since beef is marketed in widespread areas, there is no point in conducting inspections on them unless they are coordinated.."The government has also applied with the World Organization for Animal Health to raise its evaluation of Japan’s BSE countermeasures from the lowest level of "a country whose BSE risk is unknown" to the middle level of "a country having a controlled BSE risk.."Japan filed the application after it was decided to abolish a practice called "pithing" at all meat treatment centers across the country by the end of this fiscal year. In pithing, a wire is inserted into the cow’s head to destroy the brains and spinal marrow and to prevent them from thrashing around. The practice is feared to raise the risk of BSE infections.The government expects its application to be approved at a general meeting of the organization to be held in May this year.