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HomePolicy Articles Article Summary

A Conceptual Comparative Analysis Between the British and Canadian Mad Cow Crisis: The Cost of Living

Public Policy Paper by Sylvain Charlebois

The discovery of Mad Cow Disease in the British and Canadian beef industries in March 1996 and May 2003, respectively, created environmental uncertainty in the food chain, leading to a decrease in the confidence of international trading partners in the quality of the beef and food safety policies of these countries. The emergence of complex diseases in the food chain around the world has highlighted the increased importance of trade policies and science in the making of food safety policies. This paper conceptually compares the events that occurred in the British and Canadian beef industries by considering the two affected marketing systems as behavioural systems inside socio-political structures and processes. It seeks to understand how a BSE crisis, which creates environmental uncertainty within a beef distribution channel, influences policy-making processes and structures of related federal and provincial agencies. It also seeks to assess if the British BSE event had any influence over Canadian public policies related to food safety prior to May 2003.

The author concludes that socio-political structures, driven by power and dependency relations, and socio-political processes, driven by cooperation and conflicts within a marketing channel, greatly influenced the channel members’ behaviours during both the British and Canadian BSE crisis. Even though some changes were made, it is clear that the industry and government did not learn sufficiently from the unfortunate events that occurred in Britain in 1996, even if some Canadian governmental authorities believed they had. Many observers feel that the Canadian BSE crisis could have been prevented. The BSE crisis did incite some methodological amendments, but changes that are more fundamental are still required. During the BSE episode, cautious optimism prevented Canadian officials from going to new grounds and encouraged them to take on scrupulous strategies that will foster the trust of domestic and international consumers of Canadian beef. There were no rational calculations on the cost of regaining trust, which is often much greater than that of implementing pre-emptive measures that would care for both beef consumers and the beef industry itself.

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Policy Publication Details

Author(s): Sylvain Charlebois;
Publisher: Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy [ Visit Website ]
Year Published: 2005; Publisher Type: Research Institute
Publicly Available: Yes Research Focus: International;
Registration Required: No Language: English
Payment Required: No Publication Format: Adobe PDF

Subjects / Categories:

Policy Articles / Regional & Sectoral / Western Canada
Policy Articles / Regional & Sectoral / Agriculture
Policy Articles / Regional & Sectoral / Agriculture / 2005
Policy Articles / Regional & Sectoral / Western Canada / 2005
Policy Articles / Regional & Sectoral


Keywords / Tags:

BSE crisis; Britain; Canada; economic impact; Beef Industry; Health concern; trade relationship; beef consumption; food safety; Public policy ;