R-CALF Rise Up Against Lab Relocation

US - The cattlemen's action group , R-CALF, have voiced their concern about the relocation of a Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) in Plum Island, New York. They fear that the laboratory is too close to livestock populations and have responded by implementing an interim policy to oppose the move.
calendar icon 1 May 2008
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The current facility is isolated on an 840-acre island and has a perfect record of never allowing any of the live, pathogenic animal disease agents studied there to escape. One such malady that strikes fear in every livestock producer is the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

"If it needs to be rebuilt and updated, then it’s just common sense to do it right there and keep it where it’s at."
R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry

If moved, the facility would be called the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). Among sites being considered for the facility are Manhattan, Kan., Athens, Ga., Butner, N.C., San Antonio, and Flora, Miss., all with nearby livestock populations.

“If it needs to be rebuilt and updated, then it’s just common sense to do it right there and keep it where it’s at,” said R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group’s animal health committee. “North Carolina told Homeland Security they didn’t want it, but at the other locations, all they see are the dollar signs.

“There are a significant number of cattle yards near Manhattan, Kan., and you can imagine what the economic impact would be if a strain of FMD got out of that lab into the cattle-feeding industry anywhere near there,” he continued. “What if they didn’t discover it quickly? Just think about all the movement of cattle between Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. There are literally hundreds of thousands of feeder cattle pastured there every spring and summer.”

A Homeland Security report puts the number of livestock near Manhattan, Kan., at about 543,000, and approximately 133,000 near the proposed site in Athens, Ga. The FMD virus is so contagious that work with it has been confined to Plum Island for more than 50 years. The existing facility is classified as Bio-Safety Level 3. The new facility also would conduct research on foreign livestock diseases, but would be designated as Bio-Safety Level 4 status, which means research would occur on animal viruses that could be fatal to humans and on “microorganisms that pose a high risk of life-threatening disease and for which there is no known vaccine or therapy.”

“OK, so we need to renew the facility, but why would we move it right where it could do the most damage,” asked R-CALF USA Member Aimee Hatchigian-Gould, a physician who ranches in Montana and serves on the group’s animal health committee. “I mean, I’m not feeling very secure right now. There’s a reason these facilities are placed where they are currently.”

Further Reading

       - You can visit our FMD information page by clicking here.

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