Canadian Mad Cow Woes

I wanted to express a delicate opinion, based on the article, below.

"Delicate" because I don't want knee-jerk reaction based on a mis-assumption that I'm trying to defend Canadian interests. Understand first and foremost that I do not eat animals, do not need to eat animals, and believe the world would be far better if everyone who does not need to eat animals, didn't.

And second, I'm not big on nationalism.

Those things said, the Canadian beef industry was heavily damaged when BSE showed up in a Canadian cow. That's because the main importer and consumer of Canadian beef is the U.S., which promptly, and for a long time, closed the border to import of Canadian beef into the U.S., to protect American consumers.

Fine. That's a good idea and if it hurts Canadian beef producers, so be it.

But now that BSE has shown up in the U.S., somehow it seems that it is not a concern for the U.S. consumer. How can that be?

The standards applied to control and husbandry in both countries are pretty much the same. Neither follows the Japanese lead of examining every slaughtered cow before the meat enters the human food chain, the only sure way to protect the consumer from BSE prions.

And yet I've seen no news media, at least not in the U.S., point to the hypocrisy. That may be a good thing in the sense that I'm not suggesting that the U.S. import more beef...the less the better and all that, but surely there should be some form of outrage that if beef from one country that has found BSE should not be consumed, neither should beef from your own country.

I'm wondering, pragmatically, if anyone who is on this list who is a writer/journalist, or knows such people, could try to get this question out into the open.


Barry Kent MacKay

Past mad cow woes tough on beef farmers
By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter

Nova Scotia beef farmers still face a grim financial situation in the fallout from the 2003 case of mad cow disease in Alberta, the chairman of the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers said Tuesday.

That case led to a ban on Canadian cattle exports to the United States, which drove down prices for farmers. The ban was partially lifted in July to allow exports of cattle younger than 30 months, but the industry still hasn't recovered, Jim Bremner told a committee of MLAs.

"A lot of producers haven't finished up paying for some of their stuff from last year and they're into a spring season now. A lot of them have exhausted lines of credit and that kind of thing simply because we haven't been able to recapture back from the market," said Mr. Bremner, who farms near Falmouth.

Mr. Bremner appeared before the legislature's resources committee Tuesday. He said he wasn't there to ask for help, but to update MLAs on the industry.

He acknowledged it's very small, with the Maritimes having about 1.5 per cent of the national population of beef cows. His organization estimates
there are about 1,200 beef farmers in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Bremner estimated 25 to 30 per cent of them will decide to get out of the business in the near future, even though they'll likely take a financial loss.

Mike Horsnell, a fifth-generation farmer with about 450 cattle in Aylesford, said he's looking at whether his farm is viable.

"We're doing a financial analysis of it and going to decide whether to carry on or to shut the operation down or just what to do in the future," said Mr. Horsnell, vice-chairman of the cattle producers. The two farmers said costs for everything from fertilizer to electricity have spiraled the last couple of years, while the market prices for their animals have suffered.

And Mr. Bremner said a federal-provincial program set up in 2004 to help farmers cope has been difficult.

The Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program is so complex, it pretty much requires an accountant to help with the application, he said. The program, administered by the federal government, is even demanding that some farmers pay back advances they received in 2004, Mr. Bremner said.

But Mr. Bremner said the situation isn't all bleak. He said the development of the new federally-inspected slaughter facility in Borden, P.E.I., should help, and he mentioned that Sobeys and Atlantic Superstore have bought some meat from the plant.