Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) affects the central nervous system of
beef and dairy cattle. It is also sometimes referred to as "mad cow
to the family of diseases known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies
(TSEs). Other diseases in this family include chronic wasting disease
in deer and elk, scrapie in sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans.
Although the origin of these diseases is unknown, they are caused by the
presence of an abnormal protein in the brain called a prion.
It is believed
that cattle contract BSE through meat and bone meal (MBM) containing the
remains of other cattle infected with the disease. It is also possible
that mothers can pass the disease to their offspring, however, this theory
has not been confirmed. BSE is not transmitted from cattle to cattle.
During the BSE outbreak in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s,
it was speculated that cattle contracted BSE from feed containing sheep
offal infected with scrapie. Scientific evidence, however, did not validate
this theory, and therefore, the theory was discarded. Although BSE contaminated
feeds can pose a risk to sheep, there is no risk of scrapie being spread
to cattle or humans.
and the Sheep Industry
Following the announcement on May 20th, 2003 that BSE was discovered
in a cow in Alberta, the United States closed its border to all Canadian
ruminant and ruminant products, including sheep.
The Canadian Sheep Federation recognizes that the border closing will
severely affect our industry. In 2002, the total value of live sheep and
processed product exported to the United States was approximately 19,
800, 000 dollars (Statistics Canada). The CSFs position is that
sheep should not be included in the current ban since they pose no risk
to cattle or human health. We are working with provincial organizations
to encourage government officials to address this issue. For more information
on how the border closing has affected markets, please contact your provincial
organization or government department.
sources of information:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency - www.inspection.gc.ca
Canadian Cattlemens Association - www.cattle.ca
United States Department of Agriculture - www.usda.gov