Mr. Gresham to Mr. Ewing.

No. 111.]

Sir: I inclose for your information a copy of a letter of the 27th ultimo from the Secretary of Agriculture, inclosing a copy of a communication [Page 29] addressed by him to Mr. Burnet Landreth, of Bristol, Pa., in regard to the sanitary condition of American cattle.

You may avail yourself of any opportune occasion which may occur to communicate a copy of Mr. Morton’s letter to the Government of Belgium.

I am, etc.,

W. Q. Gresham
[Inclosure in No. 111.]

Mr. Morton to Mr. Gresham.

Sir: I have the honor to inclose for your information a copy of a letter which I have recently addressed to Mr. Burnet Landreth, of Bristol, Pa., who requests a statement of this nature, with the object of publishing it in the proceedings of one of the French agricultural societies. It is a concise statement of my views in regard to the prohibition of American cattle by certain Europeon Governments, and it may, therefore, possibly be found useful in your Department.

Very respectfully,

J. Sterling Morton
[Subinclosure in No. 111.]

Mr. Morton to Mr. Landreth.

Dear Sir: I am in receipt of your letter of the 9th instant, making inquiry concerning the existence of contagious cattle diseases in the United States, and as to whether the prohibition now enforced against American cattle by France, Germany, and Belgium is justified by any danger from such diseases. The facts in relation to this matter are very clear, and I will present them briefly for your information:

For a considerable number of years the exports of American cattle to Europe have exceeded 200,000 animals annually, and in several years they have nearly reached 400,000. Among all of these animals there has not been one which has conveyed a contagious disease to the cattle of any country to which it has been shipped. A number of years ago contagious pleuro-pneumonia existed in the United States, but was confined to a small area and has been entirely eradicated by stringent measures adopted by the Federal Government. There has not been a case of pleuro-pneumonia observed in the United States during the last three years. This Department has declared officially that the disease was eradicated, and the evidence of this is briefly as follows:

In the districts where the disease existed, a rigid inspection and quarantine was maintained for one year after the last case of the disease was discovered. There has been a careful inspection of all cattle exported before they were allowed to be loaded upon the ships. There has also been a careful inspection at the time of slaughter of all cattle killed, the meat of which was to be shipped from one State into another or to any foreign country. The number of these during the last year exceeded 3,800,000.

There has also been an investigation made of all oubreaks of cattle disease reported to the Department of Agriculture during the last three years. With all these sources of information it does not appear possible that there could be a contagious disease of this character existing among the cattle of the United States without its having been brought to the notice of this Department.

At the meeting of the United Sates Veterinary Medical Association, held in Chicago in 1893, one of the topics of discussion was the question as to whether this disease had been entirely eradicated from the United States. The unanimous voice of the association, which is composed of members from every State in the Union, was that the disease did not exist in any part of the country, and had not existed during the year and a half immediately preceding the meeting.

As pleuro-pneumonia does not exist anywhere in the United States, it is absurd to suppose that our cattle are infected with it when they are landed in Europe, for it is universally admitted among veterinarians that the disease only arises by contagion. The disease which has been most frequently mistaken for pleuro-pneumonia is a form [Page 30] of broncho-pneumonia, in which a septic microbe multiplies in the lungs and causes lesions which, on superficial examination, appear to resemble those of contagious pleuro-pneumonia. This disease was discovered in one or two animals among those landed in France in 1891, and was very clearly described by M. Nocard in a paper presented to the Société Centrale de Médecine Vétérinaire, July 23, 1891. This disease is seen in cattle which have been transported long distances by rail or by ship, but, like at least one form of ordinary pneumonia in man, it is, although associated with the development of a microbe in the lungs, apparently free from any contagious properties. There is not sufficient reason for assuming, as some have, that this disease is confined to American cattle. A similar disease has been described as affecting the lungs of calves on the continent of Europe, and Professor Williams is of the opinion that it is seen in adult cattle in Great Britain. It has not been more frequently described, because, unless cattle are exposed to unusual hardships, drafts of air, and extremes of temperature, it is a mild disease and the veterinarian seldom has the opportunity of making a post-mortem examination.

There is not the slightest danger to the animals of Europe from the occurrence in rare instances of this disease in the lungs of our cattle, nor is there anything to show that the flesh of such animals has a deleterious effect upon the health of the consumer. Under any circumstances the disease is easily recognized by inspection of the lungs, and affected carcasses may be disposed of according to the regulations in force in the district where the animals are slaughtered.

Texas-fever infection, about which certain fears have recently been expressed in Germany and France, is equally impossible under the conditions surrounding the shipments of our cattle to Europe. In the first place, Texas fever is not, strictly speaking, an epizootic or a contagious disease. It is an enzootic with limited powers of infection. The cattle which disseminate it come from a well-known and clearly defined region, which is under strict sanitary regulations. None of the cattle from this region are allowed to leave it during the warm season of the year, when alone the disease occurs, except for immediate slaughter, and the exportation of these animals is absolutely prohibited.

The disease can only be spread by cattle which have originated in the district where the infection is enzootic. These animals do not communicate it directly from animal to animal, but indirectly by first infecting pastures or pens. The animals to which the disease has been communicated in this way do not have the power to reconvey it, but the power of infection is extinguished with the first transmission. It has been asserted that there are rare exceptions to this rule, but if so they are so very rare that in the whole history of the disease in this country enough of them have not been recorded to relieve the observation from reasonable doubt.

The disease has been prevented for years in this country by regulations which require cattle from the district of the infection to be yarded in pens set apart for them, and to go directly from these to the abattoirs. Some outbreaks of the disease have occurred as a result of violations of the regulations, or by carelessly allowing cows to stray into the pens of local abattoirs where Texas cattle are slaughtered, but there has been no case in which the disease has spread from the animals first affected. The infected pens retain the infection during the hot weather only, and never from one summer to another.

Europe is entirely protected from this disease by the American regulations which prohibit the exportation of cattle from the district where the infection is enzootic. Every bullock exported is inspected, its origin is ascertained, and a number is placed upon it for identification. There is, consequently, no chance for a violation of this regulation.

If the diagnosis of the German veterinarians was correct with the animals asserted by them to have had Texas fever, that fact does not justify the conclusion that there was any danger of other animals contracting the disease from them. On the contrary, the fact that they were sick demonstrates that they were not from the district where the infection originates, as the animals in that district have an immunity from the disease, but that they had been accidentally infected, and like all such animals were incapable of further disseminating the infection.

It is not at all clear that the American cattle at Hamburg were affected with Texas fever. The official reports show very clearly that the first lot of cattle reported to have had this disease did not present any of its distinctive characters. Later, and after attention had been attracted to this evident error of diagnosis, it was reported that in a subsequent cargo, animals were discovered which exhibited the lesions described in the bulletin of the Bureau of Animal Industry on Texas fever. As the description given in the two cases is not inconsistent with the conclusion that the disease was in both cases the same, and as there must, consequently, have been an error of diagnosis in one case, there can be no certainty that the inspectors were correct in the other. Is it not possible that an inspector, finding that such a damaging error had been committed, would be inclined to search with more than ordinary zeal for the disease which he had wrongly reported to exist, and in his [Page 31] desire to justify himself, might he not he unconsciously biased to such an extent that his judgment in the subsequent case would be more or less unreliable? This possibility which presents itself from a reading of the official report is not made any less probable by private advices which have been received from various sources.

This Government is not unreasonable in its requests that other nations receive the animals which are exported from the United States with the certificate of health issued by this Government, after a careful inspection and with a full knowledge of the facts. We only ask the same privileges which we have willingly freely accorded to others. We have always received horses and cattle and sheep from France, Germany, Great Britain, and other countries of Europe, in which maladie du coit, glanders, contagious pleuro-pneumonia, foot-and-mouth disease, and even rinderpest, have existed, and have protected ourselves by inspection and quarantine where the animals were landed. The Governments of Europe have never issued certificates of health such as are issued by this Government, nor have they adopted such elaborate regulations for preventing the exportation of diseased animals as exist here. In spite of the acknowledged existence of such dangerous diseases, and the lack of a proper export inspection and certification, there has been no prohibition enforced in this country.

The animals imported by us were for breeding purposes; they have gone to the farm and the ranch, where they mingled with our native stock, circumstances which increase the danger of a wide-spread distribution of an imported contagion. Our animals, on the other hand, are exported for slaughter. There would be little danger of a contagion spreading, even if they should prove affected, and arrangements might be easily made by which they could be handled without coming in contact with or endangering the native stock.

Considering all these circumstances, the absolute exclusion of our animals is unnecessary as a sanitary measure, and is an act of unfriendliness such as this Government has never adopted.

The general character of the cattle exported from this country, their condition and healthfulness, can not be surpassed, and probably is not equaled, by the cattle of any other country. M. Nocard, in the communication already referred to, says:

“Pendant l’hiver dernier, on a mis en vente sur le marché de la Villette, plusieurs milliers de magnifiques bœufs des Etats-Unis, notamment de la Virginie, de l’lndiana et de l’Illnois.”

The following abstract of an article by Boysen and Vollers, veterinarians at Hamburg, recently appeared in the Hygienische Rundschau (February 15, 1895, p. 171), and demonstrates that there can be no objection offered to the general condition and healthfulness of American cattle:

“The authors protest against the misrepresentations and fears which are scattered through the newspapers, that tuberculosis exists in cattle in America to an enormous degree, and also that pleuro-pneumonia is still more prevalent, and that the American stock raisers are forced on this account to ship their cattle to Europe at a merely nominal price.

“In Hamburg, from the year 1889 to the present time, there were in all 7,104, and in other German cities altogether 918 imported cattle slaughtered. These animals were subjected to a careful veterinary inspection, not only before being slaughtered, but afterwards as well. It was impossible to find pleuro-pneumonia in a single case, while tuberculosis was present in only four of these animals. In two of the latter the entire carcasses were condemned, while with the other two it was only necessary to condemn single organs. Accordingly, only one-twentieth of one per cent of the American cattle were tuberculous, while 8 per cent of the German steers slaughtered in Hamburg have been found tubercular. It is noticed parenthetically that, strange to say, the American cattle were entirely free from liver flukes. The authors consider the condition of this stock as fully equal to that of the stock raised on the home meadow lands.

“Boysen and Vollers see a certain danger in the American meat for the German producers and for the German meat trade, which is well founded, not only on account of the lower price, but in the high standard of cattle breeding and in the perfect health of the American cattle. The German stock raisers are advised to study the achievements of the Americans in the field of stock raising, and to examine and consider how the tuberculosis, which is constantly spreading around them in the German stock, may be arrested.”

What the American people ask in this matter is only fair treatment, with a truthful and unprejudiced characterization of their products, and sanitary measures limited to what is necessary to prevent the entrance of contagion. No country has a larger or more valuable stock of domesticated animals than the United States, and yet it has not been found necessary to prohibit the importation of animals from Europe, although European countries have been overrun with the most virulent and infectious plagues to which animals are subject. Why should we not expect from friendly nations with which we have trade relations the same liberality, the same [Page 32] spirit of fairness toward our products which we have shown toward the products which have been exported by them to this country?

We have taken the official statements of European Governments as to whether contagious diseases of animals existed in their territory, but they apparently refuse to accept our repeated declaration that contagious pleuro-pneumonia was eradicated from the United States three years ago.

We have taken animals from Europe when there was grave danger of introducing, plagues; about the epizootic character of which there was no doubt. There is now a refusal by European nations to take our cattle on account of alleged danger from Texas fever, a disease which is not epizootic even in the United States, and which is more easily prevented than any other communicable disease.

Very respectfully,

J. Sterling Morton