Practical Issues >
Factory Farming >
Feds 'Hiding Mad Cow Cases'
American Records Not Credible, Former Packing Plant Vet Says
By Duncan Thorne
The Edmonton Journal
EDMONTON - A former American
government packing plant veterinarian says the United States government is
hiding cases of mad cow disease.
Dr. Lester Friedlander said Wednesday that colleagues with the United States
Department of Agriculture have told him of cases that the USDA has chosen not to
Friedlander, who has been invited to speak to Parliament's agriculture committee
next week on proposed changes to Canadian inspection legislation, refused to
give details. He said the USDA employees are close to retirement and risk losing
He has previously spoken out, however, about a Texas cow that had mad cow
symptoms and went untested to a rendering plant after a USDA veterinarian
condemned it at a packing plant in San Angelo.
MAD COW CASES IN U.S.
There have been U.S. news reports that just three cows processed by the
plant were tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy over two years. The
plant, Lone Star Beef, processes older dairy cows considered at higher risk of
Friedlander said it's not credible that the USDA has found just one BSE case and
only in a cow that entered the United States from Alberta rather than being
raised in the U.S.
"You've found four cases (including a cow from Alberta discovered in Washington
state with the disease) out of 12 million cattle and the United States has found
none out of 120 million," Friedlander said in an interview during a speaking
visit to Edmonton.
He said production practices in the two countries are similar enough that the
USDA should be finding more BSE cases.
NEW AGENCY NEEDED
Friedlander was in charge of meat inspectors at the largest U.S.
culled-cow packing plant, in Pennsylvania, until 1995. He lost his job for, in
his words, "doing too good a job."
He has since become a public speaker on food and animal safety issues. He was in
Edmonton as a guest of the Edmonton Friends of the North Environmental Society.
The USDA's record looks worse than the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's but
Canada needs a new "consumer" agency to oversee packing plant inspections, he
added. He said the USDA and CFIA both suffer from having too much influence from
politicians eager to please the food industry. His proposed consumer agency
would be a government body but would have more safeguards against political
Marc Richard, speaking from Ottawa for the CFIA, said the agency enforces rules
set by Parliament and does its job well.
He said it reports to Agriculture Minister Andrew Mitchell and a replacement
government agency would have to do the same.
Friedlander also warned against intensive livestock operations, such as cattle
feedlots and large hog operations. He said they are ideal breeding grounds for
bacteria and disease, and authorities have tended to react slowly when there's
Delayed reaction to avian flu last year at a British Columbia poultry operation
led to a large and costly outbreak, he said.
John Feddes, an agricultural engineer at the University of Alberta, said the
province's confined feeding operations are generally run well, under stringent
rules. Large hog operations, Feddes said, are clean.
"Just because they're large doesn't mean they're going to be out of control."
Dr. Gerald Ollis, Alberta Agriculture's chief veterinarian, said confined
feeding ops tend to have well-educated people in charge and are big enough that
they can have vets visit more often than at smaller farms. Ollis added that his
experience of CFIA inspections is that they are done well.
He was not aware of reports of limited BSE testing at the Texas packing plant,
but said the USDA is concentrating its tests at high-throughput operations.
� The Edmonton Journal 2005
London's April 10 "Independent on Sunday" has a 4,000 word
article headed "The Vivisectionist V the Animal Activist. One says his research
transforms lives. The other has endured prison."
It is a balanced piece, presenting neither the activists nor scientists as
monsters. It is bound to leave most readers realizing that the medical testing
system needs a drastic overhaul, even if they are not yet convinced that
vivisection should end.
It opens with a discussion of the success that militant animal rights activists
have had at preventing the construction of a primate experimentation facility at
Oxford. Then we read interviews with:
"Oxford Professor of Neurosurgery Tipu Aziz - one of Britain's leading brain
surgeons, and one of the very few professionals willing to speak out publicly on
the need for the centre - says that it must be built." and with "lifelong
animal-rights activist Mel Broughton, 44. He and Robert Cogswell founded SPEAC
(Stop Primate Experimentation at Cambridge) to protest at the Cambridge labs.
Now renamed 'Speak - the voice for animals', it is the leading group in the
campaign to stop the Oxford centre."
We read of Aziz:
"Since 1991, using brain surgery techniques which he helped to pioneer, Aziz has
operated on more than 1,000 people suffering from Parkinson's Disease and other
uncontrollable movement disorders. The operation instantly stops the convulsions
and unlocks their joints - as if by flicking a switch. The procedure, he says,
has transformed their lives. It involves permanently inserting two electrodes
deep inside the brain to a precise spot: the sub-thalamic nucleus. Wires are
passed under the skin to a pacemaker and battery inserted in the chest. Only the
battery needs replacing - about every five years....The operation - which is now
estimated to have helped some 30,000 Parkinson's sufferers around the globe -
was developed by Aziz and others through experiments on monkeys."
The history of the research is given in some detail. Then we read, "His research
continues: into a possible vaccine against Alzheimer's, into multiple sclerosis
tremors, and into the theory that the brains of Parkinson's sufferers may be
'repairable' using a modified virus. Aziz uses on average two monkeys a year for
his research. 'Monkey studies are an integral part of my work,' he says. 'Every
time I see one of my patients, that justifies it.'"
He says that he does the same operation on his human patients as on the monkeys,
"And I don't believe that a monkey feels any different, so I'm quite happy with
what I do. The experiments we do are not torturing' these animals. These monkeys
will come up to us, let us put the radio control over the pacemaker to alter the
rate of stimulation, and then they go off and do their own thing while they're
videoed. That's our experiment."
He goes on to describe animal rights activists as terrorists. And he criticizes
those who call for computer modelling or say that animal research often gives
In the interview with Mel Broughton, he and his fellow activists are presented
not as terrorists but as "ordinary folks."
The article quotes Broughton's speech on a megaphone outside of the half-built
"We have learnt that a professor recently applied for a licence to conduct brain
experiments on primates. We've seen the licence application. Monkeys will have
electrodes fitted into their brains, and will be deprived of food and water.
They will be strapped into a chair for up to 18 hours a day. The reason given
for this research is to study obesity and hunger in human beings. But we know
why people get fat. We know why we feel hungry. Why do this to sentient
creatures when you already know the answers? This university is telling the
world that this building will be a monument to scientific research into curing
diseases in human beings. This is not the case. But the benefit to the
researchers, the pharmaceutical industry and the vivisection industry is
massive. The technology already exists to carry out safe, beneficial research
which will help people suffering from disease, and does not involve inflicting
pain on animals who have no choice and are completely at your mercy.Oxford
University you should be ashamed of yourselves for relying on this pointless,
cruel and callous treatment of sentient beings, and conning people into
believing it's for their benefit. Because we've seen the research papers - and
we know it's not."
The article offers other nice quotes from Broughton:
"There's this view of animal-rights campaigners that the only people who get
involved are either complete lunatics or bunny huggers. The vivisection industry
continually tells the public that we don't know what we're talking about and
that we're just misguided animal lovers'. I think that's a deliberate move on
their part to try to portray us as people who don't have an intelligent
"Broughton's passionate conviction - shared, it should be said, by a section of
the scientific and medical professions - is that animal experimentation is
outmoded, 19th-century science. He and other campaigners - such as Europeans for
Medical Progress - say that advances in DNA techniques, computer modelling,
tissue culture, and stem-cell research are far more reliable methods of testing
drugs and finding cures for diseases. They cite a long list of supposed 'wonder
drugs' which tested safe on animals - and were later withdrawn after proving
harmful to humans. Animals, they say, have repeatedly proved to be unreliable
models for results in humans.
Then another quote from Broughton: "We're not anti-science. I'd be more than
happy to see this lab built - but to find cures for human disease using safe,
scientific methods. This is about human health as well as about animal
The article presents Broughton as a gentle person who as a youth "was always
looking after injured birds and things," was "arrested at an amusement park in
Morecambe while trying to release a dolphin" but who, years later, was caught
with incendiary devises in his car and was released from prison in June 2002
after serving two years, eight months."
Though Broughton makes it clear that all of his activism is now legal, he does
not apologize for his earlier intentions. "He explains this by saying that
history shows that most campaigns for major change have had to go through a
stage of direct action, before moving on to legal methods to achieve their aims.
That, he insists, is what he's now doing."
On Oxford University's claim that 98 per cent of the animals to be housed in the
new facility will be rodents, he comments:
"I think it's extremely cynical, and it's an argument I've heard many times. The
idea, I assume, is that most people view rats as vermin, and so they cannot
expect much sympathy when they're experimented on. But whether it's a dog, cat,
monkey, fish, amphibian or rodent, the point remains that that animal has an
ability to suffer. Rodents are sociable, intelligent creatures, and they have
the ability to suffer pain."
"I have no qualms in saying that the idea of this lab makes me very, very angry.
Change has to come, and we have a very large role in that, by creating a
platform that allows others to speak out against what's happening. I do
absolutely believe that we are going to change the way society views this issue.
And we are in the process of doing that. How quickly that happens is in part
down to what we do, and in part down to people who are involved in science. But
it is going to happen - make no mistake about that. And I personally won't give
up until it does. Ultimately it has to be banned, with legislation to stop it.
It will come."
The article gives links to the following. Oxford University:
Europeans for Medical Progress: www.curedisease. net; Speak:
Then there is a portion, called "Life Inside The Laboratory," which gives the
kind of information one usually finds on animal rights sites rather than in huge
"Nearly three million animals are used annually in experiments in Britain. Of
these, nearly 4,000 are monkeys. Campaigners have unearthed chilling details of
experiments conducted in British laboratories, such as kittens which had one eye
sewn shut and part of their brain exposed to research squints; and monkeys which
had the tops of their skulls sawn off. A stroke had been induced, and, according
to evidence presented at a High Court hearing earlier this year, the animals
were then left unattended for up to 15 hours. Some were found dead the morning
after the operation, others were in a 'poor condition'".
It also gives reassurances that Oxford will be entirely different (though the
papers Broughton quotes might make some question that):
"The Government last year set up a national centre for the 'replacement,
refinement and reduction' of animals in research. And Oxford University says
that its new Biomedical Research facility will be 'one of the best in the
country, in terms of animal welfare. The University of Oxford uses animals only
in research programmes of the highest quality and only where there are no
alternatives,' it says. 'All such work is carried out under licences issued by
the Home Secretary after weighing its potential benefits against the effects on
the animals concerned. The University is committed to the principles of
reduction, refinement and replacement; on each project it ensures that the
number of animals used is minimised and that procedures, care routines and
husbandry are refined to maximise welfare. The University is committed to the
highest standards of husbandry and housing... We expect that 98 per cent of the
animals housed there will be rodents. Depending on other Home Office licences
held, there may also be some amphibia, ferrets, fish and primates."
That is an ironic ending given Broughton's comments on that issue.
The whole article, a fascinating read, is available on line at:
In line with Broughton's suggestion that his activism is
"creating a platform that allows others to speak out against what's happening,"
I hope activists will use this extensive discussion in the Independent as an
opportunity to speak out. The Independent takes letters at: email@example.com
and advises, "If you wish to submit a letter for publication in the newspaper,
it must include the sender's name, postal address and daytime telephone number."