In the late winter of 2003, a number of livestock animals in the Midwest were poisoned due to accidental contamination of a popular commercial feed with a lethal additive. Although all the evidence indicates this incident had no malicious or terrorist intent, it is informative as a case study highlighting potential security implications with respect to a terrorist event directed at U.S. agriculture.
In all the discussions of agricultural terrorism, the threat of deliberate and malicious introduction of a contaminant to animal feed has barely warranted a sentence in policy papers and legislation. Yet the historical record shows that individuals from New Zealand to Kenya to the U.S. have seen contamination as an easy method to kill animals.
In the November 2004 issue of the Journal of Animal Science (the leading peer-reviewed, technical animal science journal), this article discusses the poisoning of livestock alpacas (a smaller cousin of the llama) in early 2003. The animals were killed by accidental contamination of a popular commercial feed with a lethal additive parts per million (ppm) level. Although the absolute number of animals affected was small, if a similar percentage of beef livestock were poisoned, it would correspond to a loss of over 400,000 cattle in the U.S.
The article provides a brief history of incidents of chemical contamination and the political (failure of re-election bid by the Belgian Premier in 2000) and human effects (documented cases of lymphoma, breast and digestive cancers in Michigan among those who ate fire retardant-tainted meat in 1973.) Also addressed are the relative risks to agriculture by biological agent versus chemical agent and concludes with specific recommendations for bringing feed security into the agricultural terrorism dialogue.