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U.S. court reserves decision on mad cow appeal

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Feb 10, 2005
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U.S. court reserves decision on mad cow appeal
Last Updated Wed, 13 Jul 2005 19:32:41 EDT
CBC News
A U.S. federal appeals court has reserved its decision after being asked to overturn a temporary injunction keeping the border closed to live Canadian cattle.

INDEPTH: Mad Cow Disease

The U.S. Department of Agriculture had been ready to reopen the border on March 7, but the ranchers lobby group R-CALF convinced a Montana judge to block that decision, arguing that Canada doesn't adequately test for mad cow disease.

The USDA argued in a Seattle court on Wednesday that the three-judge panel should strike down that decision.

Lawyer Mark Stern said Judge Richard Cebull, who granted the injunction, shouldn't have accepted the statistics and projections R-CALF said showed Canadian cattle and beef pose a higher risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

"If you do a whole series of mistaken calculations, you can come up with any number," Stern said. "But this is just dead wrong."

But R-CALF's lawyer says the USDA should raise its standard of acceptable risk, and needs to keep Canadian beef out of the U.S. to prevent BSE from gaining a foothold south of the border.

"The American quality is of the highest quality," Washington rancher Tim Kunka said outside the court. "This is what we have to maintain.

"But in order to ensure that quality, we have to make sure we don't bring in problems from other countries."

In two weeks, Cebull will hear R-CALF's application to extend the trade ban indefinitely.

"That case is going to proceed on July 27th, and there will probably be an appeal of July 27th, either way it goes," said John Masswohl, director of international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

The U.S. closed its border to Canadian beef in May 2003, after the first case of BSE in a Canadian-born cow was confirmed.

There have been two other positive cases since then, and the first case of BSE in the U.S. – an infected cow in Washington state in December 2003 – had been born in Canada.

Last month, the U.S. confirmed its first case of BSE in a U.S.-born cow.

The U.S. resumed the import of some cuts of Canadian beef in August 2003, but still won't allow cattle to cross the border. It had planned to start by allowing animals under the age of 30 months into the country.

The judges didn't say when they would issue their ruling.

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