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Canadian Government Could Have Prevented Mad Cow

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Feb 13, 2005
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CAN ranchers sue Gov on BSE

Canadian Government Could Have Prevented Mad Cow, Farmers Claim

By DONNA HIGGINS, Andrews Publications Staff Writer

May 11, 2005

Canadian cattle farmers have sued their government for failing to prevent
mad cow disease from entering the country, saying officials should have
implemented feed regulations earlier and should have kept better track of
cattle imported from Great Britain.

The farmers' four coordinated Canadian class-action lawsuits seek upwards of
$100 million.

The Canadian live-cattle market collapsed in the wake of the discovery in
May 2003 of a single cow in Alberta that tested positive for mad cow
disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, the
complaints say.

The United States, Japan, Mexico and other countries immediately banned
imports of Canadian beef and live cattle after the diagnosis was announced.
Although some of those restrictions have since been loosened, the Canadian
cattle industry has not fully recovered, the complaints say.

Published reports say the Canadian cattle industry has lost $5.7 billion as
a result of the discovery of mad cow disease in the country.

The complaints seek recovery of these losses, along with punitive damages.
The cases were filed in courts in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

BSE, which causes brain and nervous system degeneration in cattle and is
always fatal, was discovered in the United Kingdom in the 1970s and has
since spread to more than 20 other countries.

The disease is transmitted when cattle eat feed contaminated with
BSE-infected animal proteins. Humans who eat meat from BSE-infected cattle
can develop a similar condition, also untreatable and inevitably fatal,
called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The complaints fault Canadian agriculture officials for promulgating a
regulation in 1990 allowing meat and bone meal, or MBM, from ruminants
(cud-chewing animals) to be included in cattle feed, despite the fact that
Canadian scientists knew in 1988 that BSE was transmitted via infected
ruminant MBM. The government has admitted it did not consider safety issues
when it enacted the regulation.

The complaints also accuse the government of failing to keep proper track of
191 cattle imported from Great Britain between 1982 and 1990 when such
imports were banned and the cattle were put into a "monitoring program."
After one of them was diagnosed with BSE in December 1993, officials went
looking for the other 190 and discovered 80 of them had died, been rendered
and turned into animal feed, including cattle feed.

Two of those 80 cows were from the same "birth cohort" as the infected cow,
but despite this knowledge government officials did not ban ruminant MBM in
cattle feed until 1997, the complaints say.

In addition to government officials, the complaints name as defendants
Australia-based animal feed manufacturer Ridley Corp. and subsidiaries
Feed-Rite Inc. and Ridley Inc.

According to the complaints, the cow diagnosed with BSE in May 2003 acquired
the disease by eating contaminated feed manufactured at a Feed-Rite mill in

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