Reflecting on the BSE crisis, 20 years later: Share your perspective

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the BSE crisis struck Canada. The memories of that time still feel vivid, as if it were just yesterday. Last week’s comments from a farmer in the Maritimes about the ongoing impact of the crisis reminded me of its lasting impacts. Even after two decades, we are still grappling with the consequences.

The crisis had a profound impact on our industry and its recovery has been a slow and arduous process. I often find myself pondering the question: Would we be facing the same challenges with our cow herd size if the BSE crisis had never occurred? While it’s difficult to say for sure, I can’t help but think of how different the industry and herd might look had BSE not been found.

Looking back, it’s incredible to think about the sheer effort it took to reinstate an open border when 40 countries closed it to Canadian beef. The repercussions of that border closure were immense and continue to shape the industry to this day. I recall the sight of individuals selling beef out of the back of trailers in an attempt to support the Canadian beef industry; it was a time of solidarity and resilience.

The timeline of events during the BSE crisis is etched in my memory. From the initial discovery of BSE in a Black Angus cow from Alberta to the subsequent border closures and the first U.S. case of mad cow disease, each event had a profound impact on our industry. The struggle to regain trust, overcome trade barriers, and restore confidence in our beef products was a monumental task.

As I reflect on those challenging times, I invite you to share your own BSE stories and memories. How did the crisis affect you? Were you involved in the beef business or ranching during that period? I’m eager to hear your experiences and stories. The BSE crisis left a lasting mark on our industry, and it’s important to acknowledge the mental and emotional toll it took on individuals.

Two decades may have passed, but the memories and lessons from the BSE crisis remain deeply ingrained in our minds, and the impact it had on our industry cannot be overstated. Let us remember and honour those who navigated those difficult times and continue to work towards a resilient and thriving Canadian beef industry.

If you’d like to share your BSE stories, please email me at [email protected], or call the RealAgriculture feedback line at 855-776-6147. Your insights will be invaluable as we explore this topic further and discuss it with farmers on the upcoming Farmer Rapid Fire segment and feature interviews in our Saturday email.

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