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Moore says mad cow timing odd

KIM CHANDLER / Birmingham News | March 29 2006

MONTGOMERY - Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore said Friday it was a "strange coincidence" that mad cow disease was found in Alabama just as government officials want to start an animal-identification system.

Moore is opposed to a national tracking system that would give identification numbers to farm animals and to a bill pending in the Alabama Legislature that would authorize Alabama to start its own tracking system.

"It's a strange coincidence that we have a case of mad cow disease at the same time the Senate is debating this bill," Moore said. "I see this as an imposition on freedom and liberty.

"This is not to track disease. The precept is for tracking disease," he said, "but it will cause small farmers to be run out of business, small animal owners."

Earlier this month, state and federal officials reported that mad cow disease, medically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was found in a 10-year-old Alabama cow. This was the nation's third incident of the brain-wasting illness.

Moore said he was suspicious of the timing of news reports in which the state agriculture chief said the recent case of mad cow in Alabama highlighted the need for such a system.

"Even if it were true, this system is false. This is not to control disease," Moore said.

When asked if he believed that the mad cow report could be manufactured, Moore replied, "That's right." But if it is true, Moore said, bureaucrats are exploiting fears to promote the passage of a tracking system.

"I don't know if they are lying or not. All I'm saying is that it's a strange coincidence that the very time the bill is up before the Legislature, a bill nobody knows, that this comes out, that this highlights the need for a new system."

Few have heard

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been trying for years to develop a National Animal Identification System. The system currently is voluntary, but aspects of it are expected to become mandatory.

According to the USDA, an identification system is being developed for all animals that will benefit from having a system to rapidly trace back in the event of disease concern. Working groups are developing plans for llamas, cattle, bison, deer, elk, horses, goats, poultry, sheep and swine.

A bill already approved by the Alabama House of Representatives and pending in the Senate would authorize the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to create an animal identification system consistent with whatever is implemented by the federal government.

In campaign stops, Moore often asks people if they've heard of the system or the bill pending in the Legislature. Few have, he said.

Moore said there should be a greater public debate about the matter because of its impact on family farmers.

People who want to raise a few chickens for eggs or cows for milk shouldn't have to involve state or federal government, Moore said.

"I spoke out against this. All of the sudden it stalls a little bit in the Senate. All of the sudden we get this report that comes out in the paper," Moore said. He was referring to news articles that say the mad cow incident highlights the need for a tracking system.

"They keep confidential the location. .¤.¤. But the thing about it is if they keep the location confidential, how are you going to ask the farmer how a tracking system is going to help," Moore said. "To think that a stockyard can't track who sells a cow is crazy."

'Sick and tired'

Moore keeps 15 or 20 cows on his ranch and said his family raised animals for food when he was a boy. Fees and registration forms could stop other families from doing the same.

Ron Sparks, state commissioner of agriculture and industries, said it was "absurd" for Moore to doubt the reports of mad cow or the need for a tracking system.

"Do you think we wanted a case of mad cow disease in Alabama? Lord knows we didn't," said Sparks, a Democrat. "For anybody to take on a wild tangent that it's the mark of the beast, that it's the end of time, it's absurd."

The National Animal Identification system will be capable of tracing a sick animal or group of animals back to the herd or premises that is the most likely source of infection, Sparks said. He said the Alabama bill would allow the state to tie into whatever national system is established.

"I get sick and tired of politicians playing silly games with the public," Sparks said.

Moore responded that he was sick and tired of bureaucrats who want to infringe on personal liberties.




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