Regulatory 'loophole' could drive cattle herds to U.S. for slaughter

CANADA - Canadian ranchers who want to avoid the cost and hassle of the government's new rules to stamp out mad cow disease can send their young cattle across the U.S. border.
calendar icon 12 July 2007
clock icon 2 minute read
The animals can be slaughtered under laxer American rules, then shipped back into Canada and sold as steak, ribs and hamburgers - as long as the animal's high-risk tissues, known as specified risk materials, or SRM, are left behind in the U.S., Canadian officials say.

"If they take it down there and have it slaughtered and want to bring it back cut and wrapped (as meat), no problem, just as long as it comes back without the SRM," says Freeman Libby, national director of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's feed ban task force.

The agency has no objection to such cross-border traffic, Libby says, even though it highlights a gap between mad-cow rules in Canada and the U.S. The gap widens Thursday when Canada's "enhanced" feed ban goes into force. The ban requires the removal and disposal of tissues that can harbour infectious proteins, called prions, that cause mad cow disease.

The Americans continue to allow the risky cattle tissues to be used, along with other slaughter waste, in chicken and pet food as well as fertilizers.

While Libby doesn't see a problem with the mismatched policies in Canada and the U.S., others do.

The idea that beef slaughtered under U.S. rules can be sold in Canada "is complete lunacy," says Michael McBane, national co-ordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition, a public watchdog group.

He sees it as more evidence that Canadian SRM rules are so "full of loopholes" that they will do little to eradicate mad cow disease. "Instead of a steel door we have a picket fence," says McBane.

Many in the cattle industry are also concerned about the gap between Canadian and U.S. rules, although for different reasons.

Notably, they say, the new rules put Canadian producers at a competitive disadvantage compared to their American competitors. The Canadian ban, including elaborate and costly requirements for collecting and disposing of the SRM, could see more Canadian animals shipped south for slaughter.

"In the short-term, we are going to have a lot higher costs here than our competitors, and that's not a good thing," says Dennis Laycraft, executive vice-president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, which represents 90,000 beef producers.

His association is asking the federal government for $50 million to help offset the added costs of SRM disposal, in a bid to keep Canadian cattle in this country. "The last thing we want to do is push our cattle-processing industry out of Canada," says Laycraft.

© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.