Mad Cow meat fears
LOCAL cattle farmers are fearful the Federal Government’s decision to allow the importation of meat from countries exposed to mad cow disease will devastate the multi-million dollar industry and destroy theirlivelihoods.
And they have slammed their industry bodies – the Meat and Livestock Association and Cattle Council – as undemocratic and unrepresentative after they ‘rolled over’ on the issue at a recent parliamentary inquiry.
“To even consider allowing beef in from BSE countries to me is just incredible, but it was more amazing when we found out our industry leaders had told the Government that they were quite happy to allow that to happen,” Kyogle cattle farmer Bill Bolin said.
In October last year the Government announced that from March 1 this year it would import beef from countries that are able to demonstrate they had appropriate controls in place to ensure beef products coming into Australia were free of BSE, or mad cow disease.
A Senate committee on Rural and Regional Affairs is currently scrutinising the protocols for examining beef imports from countries which have had BSE, or mad cow disease, despite the Government’s insistence the risk to public health is ‘40 million times less than motor vehicle accidents’.
The committee is due to hand down its report on February 25, just days before disgruntled cattle farmers are planning to meet in Armidale.
Yesterday the Australian Beef Association told the inquiry beef imports would ‘put 300,000 out of work in a week’.
Australia has made much of being free of diseases like BSE, FMD, Blue Tongue and Scrape and has gone further to promote its clean image with the introduction of the costly National Livestock Identification Scheme.
“By allowing in beef from BSE-affected countries we are relinquishing this much-touted selling advantage,” the association said.
Mr Bolin said other countries do not have NLIS so it would be impossible to know if they have come into contact infected cattle.
Veterinary surgeon Bob Steel told yesterday’s inquiry that once countries that have BSE were allowed to export beef, there was uncertainty surrounding how effective and thorough the overseas testing would be.
“The only requirement for these 22 countries is that if they have a cohort of BSE cattle, that they test them, not all the others,” Dr Steel said.
“Without identification, how can we possibly know what’s coming into the country?”
In the first BSE imports Senate hearing, just before Christmas, industry representatives confirmed there were not yet detailed import protocols and they would not be developed until after the new import rules were inoperation from March 1.