Calmness in adversity
By Kenneth Coppock
On Monday morning, February 25th, 1952, it was officially announced by Ottawa that the disease reported on the Regina plains had been established as the dreaded Foot and Mouth disease of cattle. That was a “blue” Monday for Canada’s cattle industry — never before had the industry been touched by this highly virulent disease which ranks in seriousness with Rinderpest in cattle and is as infectious as Smallpox in humans. This is not the first time that Foot and Mouth has struck this continent. It has occurred several times in the United States in the past fifty years and in 1924-25 California experienced a serious outbreak. In each case the United States Bureau of Animal Industry acted quickly and by using the only certain method, namely the extermination of infected and exposed animals, they cleaned up the outbreaks.
In 1946 the disease broke out in Mexico as a result of importation of cattle from Brazil and because of the roughness of the terrain in which the infection started and the general illiteracy of the Mexican peon the task of eliminating the disease through slaughter has proved to be herculean and the program of control has resolved itself into one of vaccination. The United States, experienced in handling the disease, moved swiftly to co-operate with the government of Mexico and poured millions in dollars and equipment into the fight. As soon as the infection was reported American officials placed a sanitary embargo on the importation of Mexican cattle. Likewise as soon as Canada reported the infection in the Regina area they imposed an embargo on importation of cattle, sheep, swine, goats, dressed meats, hides, hair, hay and straw from Canada.
As the matter now stands there is an iron-clad quarantine in eleven municipalities surrounding Regina and a buffer zone around the quarantine areas. Preparations are being made to slaughter some 850 head of cattle in affected herds, approximately 200 hogs and some sheep on some 22 farms. No new outbreaks have occurred during the past week but two cases upon close inspection were uncovered on February 26th and two additional municipalities have been added to the original nine in the quarantine area. Canadian Health of Animals Branch officials have organized and have moved swiftly to control the outbreak and to stamp out the infection.
In the meantime, however, Canada’s cattlemen, especially in the Prairie area, are sorely pressed. The American embargo has closed their export outlet; an embargo on live cattle and dressed beef imported by British Columbia has shut off heavy and regular marketings to the West and an embargo prohibits the shipment of western livestock into Ontario and points East. The three prairie provinces are the surplus production areas of Canada and to be so embargoed in the Canadian market poses problems of grave concern.
We cannot too strongly record our opposition to Provincial embargos which disrupt internal channels of trade and weaken Canada’s position in her negotiations with Washington for an early removal of the embargo.
A review of the domestic situation from the point of view of supply and demand is in order. Canada’s human population exceeds 14 million, a new high figure; her people are fully employed and possess high purchasing power — effective demand is present for the beef product. Supplies of beef have not been burdensome. Canadian beef consumption, it is estimated, for 1951 was lower than it has been since 1933. It was less than 50 pounds per capita. The cattle population of the Nation does not exceed 9 million head in contrast to 10-1/2 million head in 1945. Only 3,601 head of beef cattle have been exported to the U.S. from January 1st to February 20th, compared to 29,118 head for the same period of 1951 and only 1,145,735 pounds of dressed beef compared to 4,871,201 for the 1951 period.
Surely these facts will convince that Canada at this time is on a domestic basis as far as beef and cattle are concerned. That is, provided the channels of trade are kept open within the nation.
Cattlemen have not been stampeded into throwing good property on the market for whatever it will bring. They have remained calm in the face of adversity and it is our prediction they will remain so, at least if certain steps are taken.
First: That Provincial embargoes which interfere with interprovincial trade are quickly removed thus permitting shipment of live cattle and dressed beef from any area in Canada, except the quarantine area, to another other in Canada.
Second: That there be no relaxation of the quarantine until all infected and exposed animals are eliminated and all sanitary precautions are taken to prevent recurrence of the infection.
Third: That those whose stock are destroyed are compensated at close to the full market value of the stock at the time of the outbreak. This will head off any precipitate action on the part of any producer to rush stock to market rather than take a chance on a spread of the infection to his herd even though he is far from the quarantine area. This would also impress our neighbor to the South and to the world at large that we have full confidence in our ability to control the disease.
Fourth: That those whose stock has been destroyed and have received compensation will be dealt with fairly income-tax wise, and
Fifth: The Canadian government immediately negotiate with Washington for the easing of the embargo as conditions warrant, and not embark upon a policy of bottling up the industry in an effort to reopen the United Kingdom market for Canadian beef where it would have to compete with Irish cattle which sell for 11¢ per pound on the hoof and Argentine and Australian beef at less than 20¢ per pound.
Our History is curated by Gren Winslow. For more of the past from the pages of our magazine see the History section.