Why The U.S. Needs A Mandatory Animal ID System

US - The recent diagnosis of mad cow disease in Canada underscores the importance and necessity of establishing an enhanced national animal identification system in the United States to ensure the health of the U.S. swine herd.
calendar icon 6 October 2003
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Development of national animal-ID plan progresses
Development continues on the U.S. Animal Identification Plan, and the latest draft of the plan now is available online. The intent of the plan is to protect American animal agriculture by helping safeguard animal health. A planning team, including representatives of various segments of the livestock industry, trade associations, and state and federal animal-health officials, developed the plan at the request of the U.S. Animal Health Association and the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The USAHA will review the current draft of the plan during its annual meeting this month. The draft plan recommends:

All states have a premises-identification system in place by July 2004 Unique, individual or group/lot numbers be available for issuance by February 2005

All swine, cattle and small ruminants possess individual or group/lot identification for interstate movement by July 2005

All animals of the remaining species/industries identified above be in similar compliance by July 2006.

To view an executive summary or the complete draft plan, click here

The benefits of a national animal health identification system include enhanced disease control and eradication capabilities, rapid containment of foreign animal disease outbreaks, and improved ability to respond to threats to biosecurity.

A national system would also provide benefits to industry in terms of market access and consumer demands. Pork products from the United States are highly marketable worldwide, and assuring timely and effective animal traceability through mandatory animal identification will add value to our products.

Other countries such as Canada and the UK have already developed systems that are being used to assist in traceback of foreign animal diseases. These systems are rapidly becoming the world standard. With these things in mind, the United States needs to be consistent with the animal tracking systems of its international trading partners to avoid the loss of international markets in the event of an outbreak of disease.

The swine industry has had mandatory identification requirements since 1988. However, the importance of a coordinated across-species mandatory identification system cannot be underestimated. Without an enhanced system in place, we remain vulnerable to disease and the threat of targeted bioterrorism aimed at harming U.S. livestock and reducing confidence in our food supply.

In response to these concerns, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture coordinated the efforts of the National Identification Task Force last year. The task force involved intensive work by state, industry and federal partners with 100 representatives of more than 30 stakeholder groups, including the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board. These efforts resulted in a National Identification Work Plan released a year ago.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the new National Identification Development Team used the work plan as a basis to develop the "Draft U.S. Animal Identification Plan" released last month. The revised report will be presented for review and adoption at the U.S. Animal Health Association meeting this month in San Diego.

Phase One of the plan, Premises ID, is expected to be in place by next July. This phase would require that standardized premises identification numbers be established for all production operations, markets, assembly points, exhibitions and processing plants.

The overall goal of the proposed National Animal Identification System is to achieve a traceback system capable of identifying all premises that had direct contact with a diseased animal within 48 hours after discovery. However, we believe that the challenge is to develop a realistic system for pork producers and yet achieve the 48 hour traceback objective. In addition, the system that is developed needs to be accurate, effective and affordable for pork producers.

NPPC believes that the proposed system will enhance the current mandatory market swine identification system and furnish a cooperatively developed national database with data maintained in a secure and confidential manner.

Without the tags, brands and other identification systems in place in Canada, the hunt for all cattle linked to the cow infected with BSE would have taken far longer and resulted in the needless destruction of many more animals. Just as with prior foreign animal disease incidents, the Canadian BSE case dramatized the potential of animal disease to affect economies and diverse industries, let alone food choices and availability. We cannot let another day go by without a detection system in place - there is simply too much at stake.

Source: Jon Caspers - National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) - 3rd October 2003

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