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Kivalliq meat stopped at U.S. border

Mad cow fear hits caribou

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (May 26/03) - A case of mad cow disease in Alberta is having an impact on the Kivalliq region.

Kivalliq Arctic Foods Ltd. manager Brian Schindel had to stop a shipment of caribou meat this past week when he received word the U.S. had closed its border to all ruminant (an animal that chews its cud) meat.

The Kivalliq order was valued at $34,000.

On Friday, Olayuk Akesuk, Nunavut's sustainable development minister, pleaded with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to lobby the U.S. and other trade partners to exempt caribou and musk ox products because they are geographically isolated from species which may be infected with mad cow disease, such as cows, goats and sheep.

The Nunavut Government estimates the import ban could cost businesses in the territory $400,000 and affect up to 20 workers.

Schindel said the United States Department of Agriculture has stated if no more animals afflicted with the disease are found, the ban could be lifted as early as this week.

However, if more infected animals are found in Canada, there's no telling how long the ban could last.

"It's interesting to me that when you listen to the Canadian news, all you hear is the impact this is having on the cattle," said Schindel.

"We don't hear that it's also affecting many other exports, such as the people who are exporting bison and elk in the South and, of course, our Arctic caribou.

"At this point in time, it affects us all."

When Schindel first heard the news about the Alberta cow, he immediately contacted his company's broker in the United States to get more information.

Later in the day, the broker informed him the caribou shipment would not be allowed to cross the border.

"As soon as I realized the temporary ban was on all ruminant animals, I was on the phone trying to check the status of caribou products.

"It was just amazing how quickly the States closed its borders.

"They weren't allowing anything through.

"The people I was talking to down there were telling me that 300 trucks loaded with boxed beef were turned back at the border."

Schindel was also in touch with a veterinarian at the CFIA to see if his company had any options.

He said the veterinarian informed him that the U.S. was also turning around large truck loads of fat cattle at border crossings.

"The Cargill Co. in Alberta closed its doors until this situation is resolved.

"That company isn't going to cut any more meat because all of its exports go to the U.S.A."

Schindel said there's nothing his company can do but wait and see what happens.

He says Kivalliq Arctic Foods Ltd. has access to refrigeration units and there's no danger of any of the company's caribou meat spoiling. Sales, however, are a different matter.

"We have quite a few orders scheduled for the United States during the next month," he said. "The only alternative, if this ban goes on for any length of time, is to ask the USDA to exempt Arctic caribou from the ban.

"But, I have no idea how long that process may take."