Opponents of an animal-waste incinerator in Tipperary were told last night at a public meeting that a safer method of carcass disposal should be considered.
Dr David Taylor, an Edinburgh-based BSE expert, said a process known as alkaline hydrolysis was more effective than incineration in destroying the BSE infectious agent.
The meeting was organised by STAC, a group campaigning against a proposed incinerator at Rosegreen, near Cashel, Co Tipperary. The incinerator would be used to dispose of animal waste including specified risk materials removed from the food chain as a result of the BSE scare.
Dr Taylor, who is a member of the British government's spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee, said alkaline hydrolysis was a viable and safer option.
He told The Irish Times, before addressing last night's meeting, that the BSE agent had been shown to survive incineration at temperatures that were "quite unbelievable".
Alkaline hydrolysis was now the favoured method in the United States for the disposal of carcasses, including sheep infected with scrapie, a BSE-like disease, because of difficulties in getting permission to build incinerators.
Asked if the BSE agent was destroyed in this process, Dr Taylor said there were limits to detection in all tests. Opponents claim it is not possible to say definitively that all BSE-infected material would be excluded.
By Chris Dooley