Class action seeks compensation for Canada beef

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

The Canadian beef industry took a step closer to easing the pain of
the country's BSE crisis after Quebec Superior Court Justice
Richard Wagner granted authorization for a billion dollar class
action suit against the Federal Government to proceed to trial.

The class action lawsuits allege that the BSE crisis, the closing of the U.S. and other international borders to Canadian cattle and beef, and the loss of billions of dollars by the Canadian cattle industry were the result of gross incompetence on the part of the Canadian government. Even though the US resumed live imports of Canadian cattle in 2005, beef supplies from Canada to the US are still 20 per cent below the 148,552 metric tons sent across the border prior to 2003, according to a USDA report released last year. In order to salvage some of what was lost, class action claims were filed cooperatively on behalf of all commercial farmers of cattle by a team of lawyers in the courts of Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta in April 2005. The announcement by Wagner looks to take the action one-step closer to success to redressing the $9bn lost by the Canadian beef industry as a result of the BSE crisis, according to figures from Statistics Canada. Co-counsel in the Quebec action, Gilles Gareau and Cameron Pallett, welcomed the decision. "It is a view held by many experts that the BSE crisis would never have happened if the Federal Government had not been asleep at the wheel. We would recommend that all potential members of the class retain their financial records going as far back as possible, as these records may be critical in determining the financial damages they are entitled to recover,"​ they said. "According to documents filed in Quebec Court, government officials jeopardized the safety of the Canadian food supply in failing to inform the public that they had allowed 80 British cattle that were supposed to be in a 'monitoring program', to enter the human and animal food chain in Canada. These same government officials' own risk analysis indicated that there was a 95% chance that 6 or more of these animals had BSE,"​ they added. BSE or mad cow disease can lead to its variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), in humans. It is spread by prions, abnormally shaped proteins that originate in the neurological tissues. BSE spreads by consumption of feed that has been contaminated by prions. The human form of the disease can be transmitted if a human being eats BSE infected meat, and through blood transfusions. Consuming meat from infected cattle has led to the deaths of 154 people worldwide from vCJD.

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