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The Meat Mob Muscles In
By: Merritt Clifton
From ANIMAL PEOPLE June 1997 edition
Reprinted by Permission - 24 April 2003
BST and Clenbuterol
Antibiotics are scarcely the only problematic drugs routinely used in animal agriculture. After nearly 20 years of study, the Food and Drug Administration Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee on November 20, 1996 ratified conclusions that there should be no human health impacts from the increasing use of bovine somatotropin (BST) to stimulate dairy cows to produce more milk.
That ended the longest and most intense federal review of any veterinary drug to date. The major controversies over BST now pertain to attempts in several states to require labeling of milk produced with the use of the drug, and the economic impact on farmers, as fewer cows are needed each year to produce the U.S. milk supply.
While public attention fixated on the cows, the national leaders in the business of making veal of the calves born in order get the cows to give milk in the first place quietly made routine use of clenbuterol, a banned synthetic steroid, which when mixed into feed enables virtually immobilized crated calves to put on muscle weight without getting exercise that might make their meat tougher.
The side effects on people who ingest clenbuterol residues can be deadly.
As ANIMAL PEOPLE reported in December 1995, an informant tipped the Food and Drug Administration off to the illegal clenbuterol traffic in 1989, but serious federal investigation didn't start until February 1994, after an outbreak of clenbuterol poisoning afflicted at least 140 people who ate contaminated veal and calf's liver in an unrelated case in Spain. Even then, U.S authorities proceeded gingerly, as investigating agents cooperated with the American Veal Association to keep illegal clenbuterol use by vealers out of the headlines. Raids on U.S. veal feed distributors and veal production facilities were quietly conducted throughout 1994. The first criminal indictments were announced in 1995, and Jannes "John" Doppenberg, president of Vitek Supply Corporation, was convicted of related charges in June 1996.
On January 21, 1997, Doppenberg was sentenced to serve 44 months in a federal penitentiary and was fined $25,000. Vitek was fined $350,000. Doppenberg, Vitek, and Vitek office manager Sherry Steffen were found jointly liable for making restitution of $705,814 to the Swissland Packing Co., of Ashkum, Illinois, which was obliged to kill and burn 1,300 veal calves whose Vitek feed contained clenbuterol.
Meanwhile, prodded for two years by the Humane Farming Association, the Department of Justice on November 21, 1996 began efforts to extradite Gerard P. Hoogendijk, owner of Pricor, B.V., the Dutch-based parent firm to Vitek, to face six counts of drug smuggling and two counts of introducing an illegal drug into interstate commerce. Related indictments were issued against the Provimi Veal Corporation, the largest veal distributor in the U.S.; Travis Calf Milk Inc. and company president Gerald R. Travis; and VIV Inc., also known as Hying America, along with company operators Jan Van Den Hengel and Hennie Van Den Hengle.
The significance of the indictments is not only that clenbuterol use went unchecked for many years, but further that the persons involved in the traffic were all closely associated, both personally and professionally, with Aat Groenvelt, the Dutch immigrant to the U.S. who in 1962 founded the Provimi veal empire, introduced the practice of immobilizing calves in veal crates to North America, and also developed the market for "milk-fed spring lamb," a euphemism for lambs raised in close confinement like veal calves. The corruption went right to the core of the industry.
Clenbuterol use by vealers is not only criminal but indeed a lucrative branch of international organized crime. The extent of the criminality began to emerge from evidence gathered during 82 separate raids on Belgian veterinary facilities after European Union animal health inspector Karel Van Noppen was asassinated on the job while probing the then little known "hormone mafia" on February 20, 1995.
The same sources involved in the Belgian traffic are believed to be the major suppliers to the U.S.
Other sectors of the meat industry meanwhile discovered clenbuterol--including youthful county fair competitors, whose painstaking care of individual animals, the antithesis of factory farming, is considered so essential to maintaining the wholesome image the meat industry covets that meatpacking companies routinely bid the prices of prize-winning animals into the tens of thousands of dollars. Between 1993 and 1995, at least 18 award-winning competitors at six of the most prestigious livestock shows in the U.S. were caught illegally using clenbuterol.
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The calf photo on these pages is from Farm Sanctuary with our thanks.
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