BRUSSELS: The European Commission decided Wednesday to uphold a ban on the export of British beef to the 15-nation European Union and third countries. The decision followed a period of indecision and retraction earlier this week as Europe and Britain reeled under the weight of consumer panic over "mad cow disease", a bovine brain sickness which may be linked to a similar illness in humans. The prospect of a ban has already devastated the England's cattle industry, reports TIME's Helen Gibson: "As national hamburger chains like McDonald's and Burger King canceled their British beef orders, cattle were left on the farm. Farmers who have tried to sell are unable to do so, but most are trying, hoping that demand will recover." With the ban now in place, British farmers are faced with the prospect of slaughtering most of their herds in order to restore consumer confidence. Despite evidence that most of Britain's 11 million cattle are at no risk, the British government is considering a proposal from Britain's National Farmers Union to incinerate more than 800,000 animals a year. For the most part, these would be dairy cattle over six years old which are the most likely to have eaten the infected feed banned in l989 after being linked to "mad cow disease."