Mad Cows and Foot and Mouth Disease
While livestock diseases devastate European farmers, Canada stands behind the safety of its farming practices, for farmers and consumers
In the past few months, European farmers and ranchers have been forced to destroy or wholesale slaughter hundreds of thousands of animals in an attempt to stop the spread of livestock diseases.
The latest outbreak of Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and the recently diagnosed Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) hit England and spread into other parts of Europe resulting in the slaughter of all cattle 30 months of age or older. It also prompted the European Union to ban feed made from animals parts across the continent. About 90 people have died of the disease since the first major outbreak in the mid 1990s, 80 of them from Britain.
Now, with European countries still wondering what to do with tens of thousands of slaughtered cattle stockpiled in refrigerated warehouses, along comes Foot and Mouth disease, also originating in Britain. Foot and Mouth attacks sheep, goats, pigs and cattle, and is highly contagious. Livestock culls are taking place across England and Europe, and officials estimate that the cost of the damage could run into tens of billions of dollars by the time the disease has played out. It has spread so rapidly that nobody has had the time to do the math.
The disease is extremely hard to contain. It can get airborne, and some are saying it flew across the English Channel to affect livestock in France and Belgium. It can also travel on the soles of shoes, car tires, the backs of trucks anything that comes in contact with the disease has to be sterilized.
The threat is so great that American state officials are suggesting for quarantines or disinfectants be used on all airline passengers from Europe. Vancouver International Airport installed disinfectant carpet this week as part of a federal government push to keep the disease out of Canada.
Our neighbours in Washington are debating that very thing right now, installing a kind of disinfectant foot bath at the airport terminal. They have already issued a warning to people not to visit farms, ranches or zoos if they have stepped off a plane from Europe in the last 30 days.
Dogs which would ordinarily be used to sniff out drugs and explosives are now being used to sniff out undeclared meat in baggage that could be infected with Mad Cow or Foot and Mouth.
It takes a crisis on this scale to prompt people to wonder just how safe their food is from a supply and health point of view.