Advocacy group blasts US animal tagging proposals

US - A proposal by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement a mandatory system for tagging and tracking animals in five years has been attacked by a food safety group as “another Bush-administration bow to the cattle producers”.

By comparison, Canada was able to move from a voluntary to a mandatory animal identification and traceback system within a year. The US should move to implement the system in the same time period says the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a US food advocacy group.

“While the USDA's announcement of a new proposal on animal identification and traceback systems represents an important food safety improvement, the timeline for implementation is another Bush-administration bow to the cattle producers,” said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. “Delaying until 2009 this essential food and animal health protection means the US is lagging even further behind many of our trading partners on food safety issues.”

The USDA proposals would require ranchers to identify the premises and animals according to standards set by the tracking programme in January 2008. The USDA also proposes requiring the full recording of animal movements by January 2009.

The proposed national animal identification system (NAIS) would require tagging to identify specific animals in the US and record their movement over their lifespans. It would also allow regulators to trace an animal’s movement over a 48-hour period it eventually became sick or exposed to a sick animal.

In response to the CSPI’s attack USDA spokeswoman Amy Spillman said the US had a much larger and more complex livestock market than Canada. The proposed mandatory tagging and traceback system would also cover all livestock in the US, not just cattle but also sheep, swine and poultry, making it more difficult to implement. “We want to get it right,” she said. “That is why we need more time. I disagree with the CSPI’s statement.”

calendar icon 18 May 2005
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