Mad cow panic

Mad Cow (BSE, CJD) has been responsible for the deaths of 166 people in Britain and 44 elsewhere – and the bright sparks in Canberra have declared it’s okay to import beef products from countries that have reported CJD. For the record that is most countries in Europe and North America.

Some years ago I was shocked at the death of a close friend’s father who died as a result of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). More commonly known as Mad Cow’s disease when transmitted to humans it is a variant of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD).

From Monday 1 March, beef import rules will be relaxed allowing countries including the US, UK, Canada and Mexico to export meat to Australia. What the hell for?

Here’s a little primer on the symptoms of CJD: First a fast and progressive dementia encompassing memory loss and personality change along with hallucinations. Then speech, impairment, balance and coordination dysfunction, jerky movements, seizures and ultimately certain death in anything from months to weeks.

We’ve already seen what panic the erroneously named swine flu – (H1 N1 flu strain) caused to the pork industry here and overseas. Just imagine the frenzy of hysteria to the local beef industry if the wheels fall off this genius initiative.

Already our tariffs and importation schemes have pretty well killed the clothing and footwear manufacturing industry here, they have had a damned good go at crucifying the pork industry by allowing subsidised frozen pork to monopolise the ham and bacon industry – so why wouldn’t we go a step further and open the flood gates for BSE infected countries to dump their dodgy beef products here.

If the subject didn’t sound like a line from the movie Kenny it would be otherwise laughable. But there’s also the sanitised (we hope) issue of the potential big dump of cheap Chinese toilet paper here to put another nail in the coffin of the Australian paper industry.

Statistically we spent $728 million buying 120,000 tonnes of poo ticket in 2007 and since then the market has grown by 25 per cent. With an influx of questionable beef products we could conceivably have a knock effect here with an even greater surge in usage and sales.

We are such good Joes at making Australia a level playing field for the world to score a litany of trade goals. And just to give them a solid head start we usually start the ball rolling with a couple of gratuitous own goals.

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