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US to Destroy Hundreds of Cattle Linked to Mad Cow Infection - 2004-01-05

U.S. agriculture officials have announced plans to destroy hundreds of cattle linked to the first case of mad cow disease found in the United States.

Agriculture officials say the decision to destroy some 450 male calves conforms with a pledge to proceed with an abundance of caution in the wake of last month's diagnosis of mad cow disease in a dairy cow in the northwestern state of Washington.

The Department of Agriculture's chief veterinarian, Ron DeHaven, says the calves to be slaughtered include the month-old offspring of the infected cow. He says that, since the calf in question could not be identified, the entire herd would be destroyed.

Dr. DeHaven spoke with reporters via teleconference. "The calves will be transported to a slaughter facility that currently is not being used. In total, there are approximately 450 animals that will be sacrificed as part of this effort. None of the animals will enter the human food chain, nor will any of the products from those animals go into a rendered product," he said.

Aside from the calves to be slaughtered, several thousand cattle remain under quarantine.

Meanwhile, results from DNA tests that could confirm whether the infected cow came from Canada are expected later this week. The tests are comparing the DNA of the infected cow with samples from a farm in Alberta, Canada. Dr. DeHaven said, even assuming the tests confirm the infected cow's origin as Canadian, it would be premature to say whether the United States would then request certification as being free of mad cow disease from an international veterinary group.

Such certification could be useful in restoring global confidence in American beef, which has been severely shaken in recent weeks. More than a dozen countries have banned U.S. beef imports since the mad cow case was discovered.