A class-action lawsuit against the federal government over Canada’s devastating bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infection will finally have a day in court.
The $8-billion class-action suit, representing 135,000 ranchers and dairy farmers across the country, will be tried in an Ontario court in September 2019.
The suit is focused on cattle imported from the United Kingdom and Ireland between 1982 and 1990. The suit alleges that the federal government didn’t prevent the animals from being used for feed ingredients for other cattle and should have known the animals were a risk to Canadian herds. At least 10 of the cattle came from herds in the U.K that were known to have had BSE. Since BSE is a prion disease, typically spread by consuming infected meat, the suit alleges that those U.K. animals were likely the first source of BSE in Canada.
The case of a single infected cow in 2003 shut the U.S. border to Canadian beef exports and prices dropped domestically by 50 to 80 per cent. It would be five years before the U.S. border fully re-opened, and many countries today still won’t accept Canadian beef.