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Defra admits losing 20,000 cows in Britain

Government officials have been forced to admit that they have lost more than 20,000 cows in Britain, the latest in a series of lost property blunders to hit Whitehall.

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In a situation described as udder chaos, officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) admitted in Parliamentary questions that 20,979 of the animals had been mislaid.

The livestock should have been logged on Defra's Cattle Tracing System, devised to protect public and animal health after the BSE and foot and mouth epidemics.

However the cattle have disappeared from the system, while another 1039 are believed to have been loaded onto cattle trucks and never heard of again, according to the Daily Star.

Jonathan Shaw, Defra minister, was forced to admit the embarrassing blunder in response to a Parliamentary question.

Peter Ainsworth, the Shadow Environment secretary, said he was astonished at the loss.

"Laptops, data, and now cows, is there anything this Government can not misplace?" he told the Daily Star.

"Defra's performance would do credit to Little Bo Peep."

The missing cattle scandal is the latest in a string of lost property mishaps to blight the Government.

Last week the Ministry of Defence revealed a computer hard drive with the private details of 100,000 members of the Armed Forces had gone missing.

And in August, a Home Office contractor lost a memory stick containing data on all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales.

A Whitehall source said: "It's a farce. They clearly cannot tell their Ayrshires from their elbows at Defra."


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