Ron Sparks, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI), State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Frazier, and the USDA have provided an update on the investigation of the cow in Alabama that tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
The investigation began with the USDA informing the ADAI of a possible positive BSE result on a test sample of a cow located in Alabama. Since then, countless hours have been devoted to the traceback process in the joint federal and state investigation. Last week, in a Birmingham News article, Roy Moore, a candidate for Governor in Alabama, asserted doubt that there actually was a cow in Alabama with BSE. Moore’s unusual statements included an allusion to what would amount to dozens of people lying about the existence of a BSE infected cow in the state.
“That Mr. Moore would question that there even was a case of BSE in Alabama shows his lack of knowledge about the agriculture industry,” stated Commissioner Sparks. “I would have to say that he has fallen victim to some faulty intelligence because the facts are pretty simple. The USDA and the Alabama Department of Agriculture have been working side by side in this investigation. The idea of a conspiracy between the federal and state government, local farmers, veterinarians, and on down the line is preposterous.”
Sparks also called Moore’s remarks an insult to state and federal workers who have been working diligently and continuously to complete the investigation of the history and death of the index animal. The USDA and ADAI have repeatedly stressed the importance of having a premises or animal ID registration because it could be a much more efficient means to trace herd of origin, or other affected animals, whether the concern is BSE, foot and mouth disease, brucellosis, or any other disease. Commissioner Sparks said that the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries complies with USDA policies and has not and will not implement an animal ID system that would hurt an Alabama farmer whether he raises 2 animals or 2,000 animals.
“Mr. Moore seems to be trying to frighten farmers into voting for him, but I think the farmers in Alabama will see through that,” said Sparks. “He should learn about the science of BSE and then maybe he could help the small farmers he says he is trying to protect. If he knew about BSE, he would know it has rarely occurred in the United States, but when it does, it doesn’t just affect the state or nation it’s found in. BSE is a global issue, not a Roy Moore campaign issue.”
As part of the continuing epidemiological investigation, multiple leads have been followed. At this time, the ADAI and the USDA have investigated leads pertaining to 14 locations and 44 movement traces, with 34 of those investigations being substantially complete. A location includes stockyards or farms where the index cow may have lived previously or where her immediate family members may have lived. A movement trace is an assignment or investigation in the traceback process that could include observations and/or animal movement. Additional investigations of locations and herds will continue. This process is to eliminate herds from the ongoing investigation.
BSE is not a contagious disease that spreads animal to animal, or animal to human. BSE spreads in cattle through feed containing specified risk material (brain and spinal cord) derived from BSE infected cattle. The United States banned the use of such protein supplements in cattle feed since 1997.
Commissioner Sparks stresses that beef consumption in this country is safe and that there are measures in place to see that it continues to be safe. For example, downer animals are not allowed to enter commerce for human consumption and there is a ban on feeding ruminant derived protein to cattle.