Bill Would Keep Info. on Diseased Animals Sealed

Bill Would Keep Info. on Diseased Animals Sealed

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Ed Yeates ReportingWith growing concerns over Mad Cow disease a former rancher wants to talk with Governor Huntsman. He doesn't want the Governor to sign a bill that would keep information about diseased animals sealed from public view.

Backers of the bill, which overwhelmingly passed both the house and senate, say restricting such information is necessary to avoid unnecessary public panic that takes its toll on the beef industry. But Mel Steiger disagrees. In fact, he says the opposite is true. The public will become more suspicious, more panicky, believing somebody may be trying to hide something - even when they're not.

Mel Steiger, Consumer Adovcate: “It is also my concern that if this information is sealed, that a farmer or rancher – and I grew up as one when I was young – could take that cow that became ill or an animal that they suspected of having this disease, and just go bury it.”

The State Department of Agriculture says that will not happen under the provisions of the bill. But Steiger, whose wife died from Cruetzfeldt-Jacob's Disease, says there's still too much unknown about Mad Cow and all the other variant brain wasting diseases to keep any data from any source sealed.

Mel Steiger: "I am going to express to him that it is not in the best interest of the Utah public to have the data on animal herds in this country - in this state - be sealed so that the public does not have access to it. That means you can't get it. I can't go get it."

Mel's wife, Ellie, died in March of 1998. “It's like my wife had a fast-moving version of Alzheimer's,” he told us. Her brain turned to mush and wasted away to nothing. Her funeral was held quickly, in a closed casket. Even the hospital wouldn't touch her.

Mel Steiger: "I asked them to perform a biopsy to verify the disease as being CID, and they absolutely refused, saying we do not know how to handle the infective tissue."

Researchers say we're a little more enlightened these 16 years later, but not much. The infectious nature of the proteins called prions that cause a variety of brain wasting diseases in animals and humans like Ellie, Doug McEwen, and others remain elusive - still a mystery. Mel says that alone should be enough to keep all information on the table for everybody to see.

Five other states have passed similar animal identification laws. Idaho is the only other state where the information is sealed from public view.

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