The BSE (mad-cow disease) crisis has had severe impacts on the beef sector in English agriculture, evident primarily through the low prices since experienced by farm businesses for beef cattle at market and the European Union (EU) ban on British beef exports. However, the extent to which resultant changes in beef cattle enterprises have affected conservation sites of high-nature value is less well-known. This paper reports on empirical research conducted into beef grazing on 50 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), England's best protected conservation areas. The crisis is found to have caused localized problems with overgrazing of Sites due to restrictions in stock movements after the crisis, undergrazing as farmers rationalize their beef enterprises and more subtle ecological changes associated with grazing habitats of different species and breeds of livestock. Direct impacts are not always clear, but BSE is undoubtedly making the delivery of nature conservation objectives more difficult in England
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