No evidence of BSE cover-up in U.S.: Bonnett

Ever since the first cow in North America to be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in Alberta in May, 2003, people have been waiting for more cases to show up.
In the two years since then, only three more positive tests have come in—two in Canada and one in the United States from an animal that was born and raised in Canada.
Consequently, there has been considerable speculation in the beef and dairy community in Canada (and perhaps in other countries) that given the size of the North American herd, there should be more cases by now—particularly in the U.S., where the herd is estimated at between 24-28 million animals.
Could there be a cover-up going on?
That question was placed squarely before the president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture when he appeared as a guest speaker at the annual spring banquet of the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture last Friday at the Emo Legion.
Ron Bonnett had spent much of the afternoon touring the Emo Agricultural Research Station and brainstorming with local farmers regarding the many issues facing agriculture today.
The question of BSE was raised there and again later at the banquet. In both cases, he insisted there probably is nothing untoward going on south of the border.
“There is nothing concrete [regarding unreported cases],” Bonnett insisted. “I know some people think there is [a cover-up], but I have seen no evidence of it.”
That’s not to say the U.S. herd is any safer than ours, however. Bonnett was quick to note Canada currently is testing a higher percentage of its herd than the U.S. is.
That difference in testing procedures in the two countries conceivably could allow some cases to slip through the American net.
“We’ve been told their test is not as sensitive as ours,” Bonnett noted, adding the Americans are in the process of adopting a test more like the one being used in Canada.
There also is the matter of record-keeping. Bonnett noted the Americans do not yet have in place a tracking and tracing system as comprehensive as ours, although they are moving in that direction, too.
Nevertheless, Bonnett does not believe the U.S. border will be open to imports of live Canadian cattle any time soon, even though, for all intents and purposes, there is no difference between cattle born and raised in Canada from those born and raised in the U.S.
“The most frustrating thing about all this is it is an integrated market,” he remarked.
To him, it’s all about politics.
Bonnett shared a story concerning the proposed re-opening of the border on March 7 of this year.
Cattle farmers across Canada were anticipating that moment, but a week prior to the opening, RCALF—an American lobby group—persuaded a judge in Montana to issue an injunction keeping the border firmly closed.
The case is not scheduled to be argued in court until at least next month.
Bonnett said if there is a case to be made for a conspiracy, it’s far more likely to have occurred there than in a cover-up of positive BSE tests.
“Here’s a county judge—an elected official—with friends in RCALF who listens to an hour of arguments, then retires,” Bonnett fumed. “Three hours later, he emerges with a 150-page type-written ruling.
“That must have been some typist who pulled that together,” he charged.
Bonnett concluded this example highlights the fundamental difference between the judicial systems in the two countries—and indicates ours is superior.
“This is the best case for not having an elected judiciary,” he remarked.