June 13, 2003, VANCOUVER – The recent case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Canada is a warning of much bigger problems that need to be dealt with says The Humane Society of Canada (HSC).

The practice of feeding livestock the rendered remains of animals was a result of the need to find a use for the surfeit of wasted carcasses unfit for human consumption and inedible portions such as bone produced by intensive factory farming.

“However, feeding herbivores animal proteins, especially those of their own species is not only unnatural, it is dangerous,” says Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director. “Ruminants are susceptible to diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), a group of degenerative neurological diseases that includes BSE.”

BSE is transmitted by the consumption of infected meat when protein (especially brain and spinal cord but also from thymus, spleen and tonsils) or bone from an infected cow is rendered and added to cattle feed. It is believed that the infected cow picked up the disease in this manner, even though Canada has banned this practice since 1997.

An example of how easy it is for BSE to be a risk became apparent when there was a case of mad-cow disease in Japan. A resulting search in Canada to locate 20 cows who had entered Canada from Japan via the U.S.A. was initiated. While the cows were tracked down, four of them had been sent to slaughter. Even the diseased cow discovered in Alberta in January was rendered and went into poultry feed and dog food.

“The fact that it took close to four months for investigators to confirm that the animal had bovine spongiform encephalopathy is cause for considerable concern,” says HSC Executive Director Michael O’Sullivan.

The cow was deemed to be sick at time of slaughter, and therefore unfit for human consumption. Because it was not entering the human food chain, it was considered to be a low priority for testing. However, during the four months of waiting, the rest of the carcass was rendered and transformed into poultry and dog food.

“Had there been a more timely testing process, it wouldn’t have been necessary to place three farms in BC under quarantine, nor would it have been necessary to request a voluntary recall of the dog food made from this cow. Luckily there is no evidence that dogs are susceptible to BSE,” says O’Sullivan

“There is still so much that we don’t know about BSE,” says O’Sullivan. “We do know that it is a devastating, deadly disease. We also know that a meat-based diet has many health implications for our species such as heart disease, SARS; it causes unimaginable pain and suffering for billions of animals and environmental destruction.“

“And since it is believed that mad-cow disease can occur spontaneously, can the meat industry ever be free from this terrible disease?” questions O’Sullivan. “Combine this frightening thought with human error and you’re left with the fact that for everyone’s sake and the sake of the environment it is time to reduce our species’ use of meat.”

BSE BACKGROUNDER

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

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