• Short Summary

    Farmers in the U.S. state of Michigan have accused the state's Farm Bureau of an?

  • Description

    GV Cattle farm (2 shots)

    SV dead cows

    GV PAN farmer Jerry Woltjer looking at cows

    SV dead cows (4 shots)

    SV Jerry Woltjer speaking

    SOF STARTS: "I am not.....

    SOF ENDS:....give them to them".

    SV Milk vat in dairy

    SV milk being tested

    GV PAN lorry taking milk away

    MR. WOLTJER: I am not crazy in no way. This here, these people of Michigan have been eating this poison. This is very serious. We have got to get it off the market. The farmers of Michigan have appointed myself and nine others to clear this up and we are going to clear it up. If these people want to eat this poison, there's plenty more cows out here. Plenty more of sick poisoned cows and we will give them to them."

    MR. LEWING: "Where is it going to stop? Is it going to start killing people the same way as it does cattle or you know? I've got two kids five and eight years old, what's it going to do to them?"

    ROSS: "Cattlegate, an agricultural version of Watergate. These cattle are some of its victims. Farmer Jerry Woltjer shot and killed his herd of 235 Thursday after traces of a toxic chemical called P.B.B. were found in the animals' bodies. In 1973 the Michigan Farm Bureau sold dozens of farmers feed which had mistakenly been mixed with the chemical P.B B. The cows get sick. Some go crazy with it. Some people here think Woltjer must have gone crazy when he shot his cows.

    ROSS: "But P.B.B. also shows up in the milk of effected dairy cows. The state officials allow some of it to be sold if the P.B.B. is below a certain level. Many farmers think that is dangerous.

    Farmers say contaminated milk is being sent to market to cover up for the mistakes of the Michigan Farm Bureau. That is why they compare their situation to Watergate. State officials say there is no evidence of any human illness resulting from P.B.B. But local residents are worried about the effect of the chemical on people.

    ROSS: "A farmer who kills his cattle may face criminal prosecution. But other farmers say their cattle are full of P.B.B. and that scenes like this will be repeated, if that's what it takes to bring to an end the three year old Cattlegate scandal".

    Brian Ross, NBC News, Coopersville, Michigan.

    Initials RH/1748 RH/PK/AH1801


    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: Farmers in the U.S. state of Michigan have accused the state's Farm Bureau of an attempted cover up over the poisoning of hundreds of cattle from a toxic chemical that was accidentally mixed with animal feed in 1973.

    The row has provoked a bitter controversy over the effect of the chemical not only on animals but on humans. The chemical, Polybrominated Biphenol (P.B.B.) is a flame resistant used in agriculture.

    Although it was accidentally mixed with the animal feed by the Farm Bureau almost four years ago, animals eating it them are said to have retained the poison in their bodies. News of the accident only became public recently.

    The farmers' leader, Mr. Jerry Woltjer and his colleagues have dubbed the row, Cattlegate, after the Watergate scandal. They claim the Bureau has deliberately tried to conceal its mistakes and by doing so is placing the peoples' lives at risk.

    Some cattle have died, and, according to Mr. Woltjer others have been driven crazy by the poison. He claimed dairy cows affected by the poison have produced contaminated milk which has been knowingly sold for consumption with the Bureau's consent.

    Some farmers including, Mr. Woltjer, have already taken drastic action. Mr. Woltjer has shot dead his entire herd of 235 prime cattle although he now faces the possible threat of criminal prosecution from the Bureau for doing so.

    He also claimed that people have been eating the poisoned beef. The farmers have formed an action group to ban the sale of P.B.B.

    However, Farm Bureau said there is no evidence of any human illness resulting from the P.B.B. and said there are strict controls on the sale of the chemical.

    Despite the assurances, the farmers say that they will kill their herds rather than risk poisoning people.

    This film is serviced with a commentary in English by NBC reporter Brian Ross, a transcript of which appears overpage.

    This film is also serviced with sound on film interviews with Mr. Jerry Woltjer and Mr. Robert Lewing, transcripts of which appears overpage.

    SYNOPSIS: In the US state of Michigan there have been claims of a coverup attempt. Dubbed - Cattlegate, - it has provoked a bitter controversy over dangerous chemicals and their alleged misuse.

    Brian Ross reports from Coopersville, Michigan:

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