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Mad cow investigation spreads

EDMONTON, Alta. -- The number of farms linked to the now infamous Mad Cow disease-infected beef cow has risen to ni...

EDMONTON, Alta. — The number of farms linked to the now infamous Mad Cow disease-infected beef cow has risen to nine in two provinces and there’s no sign of a quick re-opening of the U.S. border.

In fact, new doubts have been shed on the way in which Canadian officials have handled the situation, which may prompt the U.S. to keep its border closed to Canadian beef for longer than anticipated. Officials in the U.S. yesterday blasted Alberta inspectors for allowing the head of the suspected cow to remain untested for more than three months.

North Dakota Senator, Byron Dorgon, said yesterday “I do not understand how a cow infected with mad cow disease could be slaughtered in January in Canada and yet we in the United States and the rest of the world would not know about it for nearly a third of a year. There is something terribly wrong with that.”

Even Prime Minister Jean Chretien played the blame game, pointing fingers at Alberta’s testing procedure for the lengthy delay. But the province’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Gerald Ollis, defended the testing procedure. Since there was no danger of the infected animal entering the food chain, it was not a top priority for testing, he said yesterday.

Meanwhile, more details have emerged about the cow itself, after its owner spoke publicly for the first time. Marwyn Peaster, a Northern Alberta farmer, told media that the cow was sent for slaughter after it had difficulty getting up on its feet. That contradicts earlier reports from officials that the cow showed no visible signs of the disease.

“The cow went down and that is when it was shipped. The cow was still alive, it just wasn’t getting up anymore,” Peaster told media gathered outside his farm.

Many livestock haulers have parked their trucks since most feedlots, auction markets and slaughterhouses have ceased their operations while the investigation continues. Several livestock haulers contacted by Truck News voiced frustration over the current situation and hoped for a quick re-opening of the U.S. border.

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