Volume 97, Issue 1
Thursday, May 22, 2003

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Prof: mad cow won't devastate economy

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

The discovery of mad cow disease in Alberta may hurt some farmers, but it will not have a dramatic impact on the Canadian economy, according to an expert at Western.

Economics professor Clark Leith said the presence of mad cow, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, certainly came as a shock, adding it is the equivalent of a crop failure.

"Agriculture is a small part of the economy, despite the fact that it [looms large] in Canadian politics," Leith said, adding the beef industry itself is even smaller.

Leith noted it is hard to tell how much damage would be done to the beef industry, following a ban on beef imports by the United States on Tuesday.

Comparisons to the damage done to Toronto's economy following the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome are valid, Leith said. "[It's] serious for those affected."

"The really important thing to distinguish here is that there will be a severe impact on individuals, but [Canada] has a social safety net," Leith explained.

"This is a really sad moment for the Canadian beef industry," said Kelly Daynard, communications manager for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

There are all kinds of safeguards in Canada to make sure this does not happen, Daynard said. "Catching the animal shows [the system] works," she added. "The safety of the food system hasn't been compromised [as far as we know]."

"There will be farmers bankrupt in this country in a matter of weeks if [the situation] isn't resolved soon," Daynard explained, adding the U.S. ban did not come as a surprise. "We would do the exact same thing if it happened down there."

Some Western students said the scare would affect where they choose to eat.

"I think it would generally affect my appetite towards beef," said Andrea Zeffiro, a first-year masters in media studies student.

Sam Quraishi, a fourth-year administrative and commercial studies student, said he agreed. "I'm not going to be going [to burger joints]. I was not a big red meat eater in the first place."

Not all students said mad cow disease would scare them off. "Stuff like that doesn't concern me," said third-year dentistry student Jeremy Black, adding there is not enough proof of a danger.

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2002 THE GAZETTE