Cattle Crisis


208 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 1-55041-356-2
DDC 338.1'4




Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


The first Canadian case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalophy (BSE, or Mad
Cow Disease) was confirmed on May 20, 2003. From then on, a chain of
events, including more BSE cases, led to restrictions at the U.S. border
on Canadian beef, sheep, and other ruminant animal food. These
restrictions still have not been completely lifted, nor have those of
other importing countries such as Korea and Japan. This devastated the
Prairie beef industry and affected the whole Canadian economy.

Scott Wooding contends that the crisis could have been avoided but for
two principal factors. The first was that the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency (CFIA) and its predecessors in the federal government moved far
too late to take effective measures over cattle feed, the cause of BSE
transmission: the new rules came out in 1997 although some types of
cattle feed were first thought to be responsible in 1988. The second was
American protectionist pressure groups, who succeeded in influencing the
regulatory authorities and court decisions against the Canadians, even
when Canada had implemented the international rules over animal health.

Wooding’s solution is to radically reduce our heavy dependence on the
American export market by conforming to the severe standards of such
importing countries as Japan and abolishing the reliance on antibiotics
and growth hormones that have shut us out of the European Union. Behind
this, Wooding shows a deep pessimism about the restoration of the U.S.
market, which relates to the structure of the whole Canadian industry,
including the role of the meat packers. Also, U.S. protectionism is so
powerful that even without the BSE crisis, the country would have found
other reasons to keep Canadian beef out of its market.

Scott Wooding, who is qualified in genetics and microbiology, has
produced a first-rate account of a complex crisis. The only flaw in the
book, apart from the fact that it is a little less up to date than the
date of publication suggests, is this: the CFIA has in fact instituted
preventive cattle-testing measures that are stronger than those applying
to sick or dead animals, but fall short of the Japanese practice of
testing all slaughtered animals for BSE. Wooding does not say what these
are. But then, neither has anyone else succeeded in obtaining what the
annual testing figures.


Wooding, Scott., “Cattle Crisis,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,