July 14, 2005 (ENS): The Ninth Circuit Court
of Appeals today overturned a preliminary injunction
preventing live Canadian cattle from being imported
into the United States issued by a federal judge in
Montana last March.
The injunction was imposed by Judge Richard Cebull in
a case brought by the cattle industry organization R-CALF
USA. The cattlemen sought to keep Canadian cattle out
of the United States after mad cow disease was found
in several Canadian animals.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) closed the
border to Canadian animals in May 2003 after mad cow
disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
or BSE, was found in an Alberta cow. The first U.S.
case of the disease was found in December 2003 in an
animal imported from Canada.
Because mad cow disease takes years to develop and
occurs in older animals, the USDA had planned to reopen
the border to Canadian cattle under 30 months of age,
under a rule the agency issued last December that classifies
Canada as a "minimal risk" country for mad
cow disease. The minimal risk ruling was offered to
Canada because the USDA says sanitary practices and
testing are now sufficient to keep the disease out of
the food supply.
The border was to reopen on March 7, until R-CALF was
granted the preliminary injunction.
R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said, “R-CALF is
confident that when we have a full hearing on the merits
of the case, we will demonstrate to the district court
that USDA’s actions are premature and unjustified."
"R-CALF USA remains confident that USDA’s
Final Rule was not justified," said Bullard, "and
that USDA did not provide significant justification
for overturning a longstanding policy that protected
both the U.S. cattle herd and U.S. consumers from the
introduction of BSE."
“USDA’s Final Rule is based merely on a
reinterpretation of existing science that has been around
for years," Bullard said. "USDA is motivated
by political considerations of wanting to resume trade
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns applauded the
appeals court's decision. "Because the ruling is
effective immediately, we are immediately taking steps
to resume the importation of cattle under 30 months
of age from Canada," he said.
"USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
is already in contact with the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency to prepare to certify cattle for shipment. We
have been safely importing boneless boxed beef from
Canada since September 2003, and now we will use the
scientific approach laid out in our minimal risk rule
to once again safely import live Canadian cattle for
"This is great news for the future of the U.S.
beef industry, specifically the many ranchers, feeders,
and processing plants that have been struggling to make
ends meet due to the closed border," said Johanns.
"It also bolsters our position with other international
trading partners by following the very advice we have
given them to base trade decisions on sound science."
Johanns has been negotiating with Japan, China and
other trading partners to get them to lift their trading
bans on U.S. beef imposed in December 2003.
"This is wonderful news that has been long awaited,"
says Stan Eby, president of the Canadian Cattlemen's
Association, representing over 90,000 Canadian cattle
"The Court has taken a huge step toward re-establishing
normal trade in live cattle and beef products and has
recognized the science-based and proper regulatory approach
taken by the United States Department of Agriculture.
I hope that all the necessary paperwork will soon be
in place so that we may see the first shipments of cattle
crossing the border in short order."
Mad cow disease and its human form, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
Disease, are spread by prions - abnormally shaped proteins
that originate as regular components of neurological
tissues in animals.
Mad cow disease spreads from one animal to another
by consumption of feed that has been contaminated by
these proteins, contained in the nervous system tissues
of an infected animal. The human form of the disease
can be transmitted if a human being eats BSE infected
meat, or through blood transfusions. About 150 people
have died worldwide from the disease.
At a press conference after the ruling, the American
Meat Institute's General Counsel Mark Dopp offered assurances
that beef, American and Canadian, is safe. He was more
concerned with the economic impact of the border closure.
“A number of facilities across the country, mainly
in the northern tier, are running at 80 to 85 percent
of capacity, working five days instead of six, and some
plants have gone dark because there just aren’t
enough cattle,” said Dopp.
The hearing into R-CALF's application for a permanent
injunction against the import of Canadian cattle will
still go ahead on July 27 in U.S. District Court, Montana
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