February 14, 2015

Another Confirmed Case of BSE in Canada

Well, here we go again, 2015 and another confirmed case of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or "Mad Cow Disease") popping up here in Canada, four years after the last confirmed case in 2011, and 12 years since the major hit to the market that the lone-cow case in Alberta created in 2003. 

But here's the more sunny side of the coin: It's showing that our system is working. The surveillance program, and total ban on feeding any by-product that contains the ground-up remains of other animals--called animal by-product--to ruminants is showing that yes, we may get a few cases popping up here and there on occasion, but they are no longer a risk of going into the food chain for humans or other animals, because like this cow that the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) reported to the media, they don't. 

It certainly brings back some bad memories for ranchers and other cattlemen and -women like myself, some 12 years ago. It's hard to sell any cattle when the prices that were supposed to be at an all-time-high came plummeting down so hard that anybody trying to sell any cattle wouldn't get near their penny's worth. To make matters worse, many ranchers had to sell off or sell out creating even more of a bottle neck of cattle that had no place to go once processed for beef--due to 40 some countries or markets putting up the brick walls to Canadian beef. Heck, when we had our steers just about ready to sell to the local feedlot we didn't even know if we were going to sell them at all. Of course, we were just a backgrounding operation and not a cow-calf one that felt it even moreso. 

In reading some of the comments on the CTV News article I linked above I still get appalled by the ignorance of some people. Vegans pushing their reasons to not eat beef or why raising cattle is so environmentally harmful, non-farmers saying it's "simple" that ranchers and farmers shouldn't be feeding their cows meat...even one that said, "farmers deserve to be punished if they are continuing to feed the cattle contaminated food products [sic]." Can't do nothing but shake my head.

The thing is, farmers and ranchers are not feeding their cows meat or animal by-products. It's illegal to do so and has been since the mid 1990s. The feed that was fed to the animal, and others who may have also been fed it, was more than likely accidentally contaminated, or accidentally fed to the animals about 10 years ago (the length of time it takes a prion to incubate in the animal). The CFIA will do the traceability checks to see what was fed and where this cow came from, but I'd be surprised if something like this was done on purpose, especially after the scare in 2003. 

The news article above also stated that the 2003 lone Alberta cow was "Canadian-born", but I had initially thought that it was an American-born cow that was imported to Canada, and I still think those reports are correct, as far as I can remember. That's why I'm putting my money on that the cow in question may have come from the States, but I could be wrong. It's just that the US doesn't have as stringent a ban on feed to ruminants (cows, sheep, goats and deer) as Canada does, which gives me, I would think, one valid reason to suspect that this new case came from across the border. 

I'm certainly going to keep my ears and eyes wide open for any new developments in this latest bovine-related story.

-Karin
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