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From: TSS ()
Subject: Japan’s beef protesters take it to the streets with U.S. and Canada mad cow beef Boycott
Date: November 4, 2005 at 1:40 pm PST

Friday, November 04, 2005


11/4/2005 6:00:00 AM

Demonstrators organized by Shokkenren and Nominren protest U.S. beef re-entry in front of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Tokyo. - Courtesy of Japan Times

Japan’s beef protesters take it to the streets

Freelance Writer

TOKYO – Demonstrations. Boycott threats. Plans to say “No!” at the upcoming four-week country-wide public hearings over U.S. and Canadian beef re-entry.

That’s the message from consumer groups in Japan this week. They are escalating tactics to pressure the government against approving resumption of U.S. and Canadian beef imports.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, has been a consumer hot-button item here since a case was confirmed in 2001 and government handling of measures to contain spread of the rare disease came under fire. U.S. beef imports took up some of the slack in Japanese beef demand, but that came to a halt with the December 2003 confirmation of BSE in a Washington state dairy cow imported from Canada.

“Cattle in the U.S. is still being fed meat and bone meal,” loudspeakers blared Oct. 31 at a demonstration organized by Nominren (National Federation of Farmers Movement) in front of the building where Japan’s Food Safety Commission has its offices. The U.S. has banned meat and bone meal as cattle feed since 1997.

Shokkenren (National Coalition of Workers, Farmers and Consumers for Safe Food and Health) and Nominren drew about 50 people to an Oct. 20 demonstration and about 80 to one held last week.

The Japan Times of Tokyo reported that in an Oct. 27 press conference, Nishoren (Consumers Union of Japan) vice chairman Yasuaki Yamaura said both governments have acknowledged U.S. safety measures against BSE are insufficient. The expert committee of scientists said Oct. 31 that there’s little difference between U.S. and Japanese BSE safety programs.

“If the government presses ahead with the plan to resume U.S. beef imports, we will take various actions, including a campaign to boycott U.S. beef,” Yamaura said.

Most consumer organization leaders and representatives interviewed by Capital Press accused the Japanese government of caving in to U.S. pressure.

Their opposition to import resumption includes fears that:

• Cattle will be fed meat and bone meal;

• Material at risk of concentrating the BSE-causing agent will not be totally removed;

• Risk material is rendered into feed for pigs and poultry; and

• Accurate age determination is difficult and beef from cattle older than 20 months will be mixed with younger beef.

Shodanren (Consumers Japan) Secretary General Kanda said her organization’s members want U.S. and Canadian beef to be as safe as Japan’s.

“Right now, there is no consent from Japanese consumers over resumption of imports,” Kanda said.

Shodanren is a coalition of 43 associations of consumers, housewives, co-operatives, apartment residents’ associations, as well as advocacy groups for freedom of information and privacy protection. Kanda estimated membership at 23 million, although it has been reported as high as 30 million.

Kanda said the U.S. beef export program to Japan may be good, but her members have doubts over its effectiveness. “For example, how can cattle’s age be effectively determined,” she said.

The U.S. ruminant feed ban’s effectiveness is another serious issue for the coalition.

“I’ve asked U.S. consumer associations if the U.S. can effectively control feed, and they said they doubt it,” Kanda said. “We’re afraid cattle will be fed meat and bone meal.”

Nishoren’s Yamaura said in an interview that if U.S. beef comes here, BSE will spread. “There would also be a risk of chronic wasting disease entering Japan,” he said. Chronic wasting disease is a spongiform encephalopathy affecting some U.S. deer and elk.

Shokkenren Secretary General Masaaki Sakaguchi lambasted the U.S. approach, which holds that BSE is not detectable in animals under 30 months age and there’s no point in testing younger cattle.

“We think carcasses from cattle under age 30 months should also be tested, because there is always the possibility of detecting prions in them,” Sakaguchi said. The Japanese government earlier this year modified a domestic policy of BSE testing on all cattle destined for human consumption.

“If Japanese consumers do not trust the program’s effectiveness, it will not be possible to sell the beef,” Shodanren’s Kanda said.

Japan Times contributed to this report.


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