SEATTLE, Washington, 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
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
"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 with Canada."
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 processing."
"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 producers.
"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,”
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 Division.
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