Japan is suffering through a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak – its last one was in 2000 – and the government has come under severe criticism for not acting quickly enough. The prime minister admitted that the government has made mistakes and the problem has been acute.

While, according to U.S. standards, the Japanese cattle industry is relatively small, the affected region is where many of Japan’s famed Wagyu cattle are raised. Many of the breed’s elite AI sires were removed from the area after being tested free for the disease, but the outbreak, while not a major economic disaster for Japan as a whole, will have a devastating effect on producers. It points out just how important it is for an industry or government to have the capability in place to track, prevent and minimize the damage of any disease outbreak.

Terrorism raises the risk level of life today over that of yesteryear. I understand there are people out there who wish this country harm, and I appreciate that my life and livelihood is tied to factors in the greater world, but, as a rural dweller, I don’t worry much about being a target.

Something like spreading FMD, however, would be easy to accomplish and doesn’t require a lot of sophistication. The bottom line is that while we all must be diligent in trying to prevent disease outbreaks, the greatest deterrent relative to intentional disease introduction is our capability to negate the impact once it occurs.

Nobody wishes FMD outbreaks on anyone, but one almost wishes that Japan and Korea exported significant amounts of beef to help make the case that following science-based protocols is not only logical but the right thing to do. Naïve? Perhaps.
-- Troy Marshall