CWD strikes again

raybow 1

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Outdoors: Cross-border meat ban fueled by mad cow disease
BOB MOTTRAM
The Tacoma News Tribune
July 9, 2003


Gary Hauenstein of Parkland started to get uneasy when he learned that U.S.
Customs was seizing sandwiches at the Canadian border.

He heard about it through Canadian truckers who said they'd been forced to
surrender their lunch meat when they crossed into Washington from British
Columbia.

Hey, Hauenstein figured, if they're grabbing sandwiches, why not a whole
moose? So he made a couple of phone calls and, as best he could determine,
yeah, they'll take a moose if they can get it.

And that was bad news for Hauenstein. Because he's got a moose hunt booked
in B.C. in September.

"If I don't go, I'm out $1,100," he said. "And that's just the deposit."

Customs told him he could salt the hide and bring it and the horns home, but
all those steaks and chops would have to stay in the north. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture has slapped a cross-border ban on the meat of
Canadian ruminants in response to the mad cow disease that showed up in May
in a beef cow in Alberta. So far, it's the only known case in Canada, but
the Ag department doesn't want it traveling south.

Ruminants are grazing or browsing animals with complex stomachs that chew
their cud. They include cattle and sheep. They also include moose, elk,
caribou and deer.

Dr. Kathy Connell, acting state veterinarian for the Washington Department
of Agriculture, confirmed what Hauenstein had found out.

"I'm a state Agriculture Department employee, and these are federal
restrictions," she said. "But my information is that everything is
restricted. Prohibited from crossing. The Canadian-U.S. border is closed for
ruminants and ruminant products."

Ed Curlett is a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture's Animal and
Plant Health Inspection Service in Riverdale, Md.

"If a hunter went to Canada he could bring back two sets of antlers, any
number of green hides and any number of finished trophies," Curlett said.

But no meat from any ruminant. The ban doesn't affect waterfowl or other
birds.

Hauenstein says he's concerned not only about his own hunt, but the effect
of this on Canada's rural economy.

"I hunt at Hixon, B.C.," he said. "It's just going to devastate those people
up there."

Dale Drown, general manager of the Guide Outfitters Association of British
Columbia, says the potential impact is sobering.

"Our industry across Canada has the potential to be impacted at least $500
million," he said. "In Western Canada, 85 percent of our clients come from
the U.S. That's certainly the case here in B.C."

Outfitters and guides are figuring out how they - and their clients - can
live with the ban.

"We have a situation in which some folks will simply be taking the horns and
the capes back across the border," he said. "And your USDA (is) allowing
capes and horns. It's the meat that's the problem."

In British Columbia, hunters may not leave edible meat in the woods, so
outfitters and their hunters will bring all of it out. What happens then
depends.

"If we can't get the exemption (for wild meat) put in place in time that
we're pushing very hard for, a number of our guys will make arrangements to
have the meat processed and frozen and keep it here in B.C. until the
exemption comes into place," Drown said.

"I've got legal counsel in the States working on it. I'm optimistic we will
have the exemption in place prior to the season beginning."

Curlett, of the USDA, acknowledged that change could come by fall.

"We're definitely aware of that situation (the booked hunts and their
economic impact in Canada)," he said. "We're looking at products that could
come into the country that are low risk, and that process is ongoing."

Mad cow, also called bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a brain and
nervous system disorder that is transmittable to humans, in whom it can
cause paralysis and death. It is similar to chronic wasting disease, which
can infect wild ruminants and which has been spreading among wild and
domestic elk and deer in Canada and the United States. However, health
officials say they have found no evidence that mad cow can infect wild
ruminants or that chronic wasting disease can infect cattle or sheep. And
CWD has not been found in British Columbia or in Washington.

Drown maintains that the current prohibition on game meat was a USDA
mistake.

"Officials within (it) have acknowledged to me ... that they never had any
intention for wild ruminants to be snagged in this ban," he said.

Bob Mottram: 253-597-8640
bob.mottram@mail.tribnet.com
 
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