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Feb 13, 2005
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CAN ranchers sue Ottawa, $7b

Mad-cow suit blames Ottawa

$7-billion class-action accuses government of letting disease devastate cattle industry


Monday, April 11, 2005


A $7-billion class-action suit being launched this morning on behalf of 100,000 farmers in four provinces accuses the federal government of negligently allowing "mad-cow disease" to devastate the cattle industry.

The lawsuit claims that a federal monitoring program incompetently lost track of 80 out of 191 imported cows it was supposed to track in case they developed signs of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The lawsuit states that at least one of the cattle -- imported from the United Kingdom in the late 1980s -- was eventually ground up into feed, infecting a number of cattle that ate the feed.

"I don't know how you can lose 80 cows that you know may have mad-cow disease and, if it finds its way into a Canadian herd, will destroy the cattle industry," said Toronto lawyer Cameron Pallett, one of a legal team in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

"How can you start a program knowing about this, and then, when one of them comes up with BSE 3½ years later, say: 'Oops, we misplaced them and they were rendered into cattle feed when we weren't looking.' "

With the cattle industry having lost an estimated $7-billion so far, the class action could quickly become the largest in Canadian history.

The lawsuit also targets the company that allegedly made the feed -- Ridley Corp. Ltd. -- saying that it knew, or ought to have known, that its feed could be contaminated by BSE.

Federal lawyers and spokesmen for Ridley were unavailable for comment yesterday.

The statement of claim says that in 1996, Ridley's Australian parent company agreed to stop using cattle meat and bone meal in that country's cattle feed. However, it says the company recklessly continued using the material in its Canadian products because it was cheaper than using soybeans.

"Ridley knew the risks they were taking," Mr. Pallett said. "Ridley figured they could get away with it here, and hopefully, they will be proven wrong."

The genesis of the case dates back to 1986, when British scientists confirmed that BSE was responsible for the death of numerous cattle during Britain's 'mad cow' crisis. They determined that the disease was transmitted to healthy cattle when they ate the remains of infected cattle. As little as less than one milligram of infected feed could trigger BSE in a cow.

The lawsuit alleges that while Britain was busy banning the use of cattle remains in cattle feed, Canada was passing a 1990 regulation that permitted the practice -- along with a pledge to ensure that the process took place in a safe manner.

According to the statement of claim, the federal government "conducted no health and safety assessment whatsoever of the feed ingredients" listed in its new regulations.

At roughly the same time, Agriculture Canada banned the importation of cattle from the United Kingdom. It prudently catalogued 191 cattle that had been imported from the area between 1982 and 1990, and set up a program to monitor them.

However, the lawsuit alleges that this program swiftly lost track of the animals it had been set up to watch.

In 1993, BSE was discovered in one of the 191 animals. According to the lawsuit, Agriculture Canada quickly discovered that 80 of these cattle had died and their remains used in animal feed. This meant that cattle infected with BSE were in the food chain.

"At least ten of these animals that potentially entered the cattle feed system were from herds in Great Britain that contained animals diagnosed as having BSE," the lawsuit said. "The plaintiffs state that (federal officials) were grossly negligent in allowing these 80 cattle to be rendered and enter the animal food chain between 1990 and 1993."

"By the government's own admission, one or more of those 80 cattle are the most likely source of BSE in Canada," Mr. Pallett said. "Where was the monitoring? Where was the government's concern for the health of Canadians? Why did the government fail so badly in the exercise of its regulatory responsibilities?"

On May 20, 2003, the discovery of BSE in a Canadian cow led to the United States to close its borders to Canadian cattle and beef exports.
The funny thing is Haymaker when you ask who is filing this law suit nobody seems to know. Did hear it was a internet web site sign up so could just be some Toronto lawyers hopeing to get they percentage.

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