Veterinarians help in the war on terror
| 03.17.2005 | 15:15:03 | Views: 2737 | ID:
March 17 '05: The threat of agro-terrorism is real, according to homeland security experts who told MSNBC news that veterinarians are helping the government by being "early warning" indicators of possible attacks. MSNBC reported Thursday that there are "31 recorded cases of agro-terrorism in the Weapons of Mass Destruction Database, 10 of them directed at livestock, according to the Journal of Animal Science."
And during the resignation speech given by outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, the absence of an attack on the national food supply and agro-business community surprised the secretary. "I, for the life of me," Thompson said, "cannot understand why the terrorists have not, you know, attacked our food supply, because it is so easy to do." In an recent effort to confront such threats, the US government has begun to address protecting the nation's food supply. MSNBC reported, "the placing of agriculture on an equal footing with the power grid, financial, transportation and telecommunications sectors as 'critical infrastructure' is a relatively new development." Because there is the worry that there could be an attack on the nation's farming business, several government programs have come up with scenarios which describe what would happen in the event of an agro-terror attack. In one example, an Iowan farmer looses 10,000 of his pigs to an exotic disease spread by terrorists. The cost in lost revenue coming from countries putting bans on American pork would be $12 billion, experts told MSNBC.Furthermore, veterinarians need to be on the look-out for exotic and foreign diseases they have previously not diagnosed. Colleen O'Keefe, the former Illinois state veterinarian who now heads the Food Safety and Animal Protection division for the Illinois Department of Agriculture told MSNBC that vets "play a key role in such scenarios. ... When I was in school, they taught us if you hear hoof beats 'think horse, not zebra.'" And because many of the diseases which afflict animals in other countries have been eradicated in the US, vets have stopped looking for them. Many experts have said it is essential that the Department of Homeland Security help coordinate the state and local governments throughout the country to protect against threats. Such protection is needed: MSNBC reported, "experts say an outbreak in the United States (of foot and mouth disease) would likely cripple the nation's economy; the beef industry alone is worth $70 billion." Recent events such as a single case of mad cow disease in the US caused the industry to loose "nearly 80 percent of its exports between January and September 2004."
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