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Abstract

On March 20, 1996, a day known as Black Wednesday to the British beef industry, the British Secretary of State of Health announced that a possible link existed between BSE and the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human variant of mad cow. Seven years later, a somewhat comparable fate struck the Canadian beef industry. In May 2003, the discovery of the first native North American case of BSE in Canada deflated the prospects of the industry across the country, consequently creating environmental uncertainty. This paper conceptually analyses the events that occurred in Britain by considering the beef industry as a political economy. The authors find that socio-political structures, driven by power and dependency relations, socio-political processes, and driven by cooperation and conflicts within a marketing channel greatly influenced channel members' behaviors during this crisis. In addition, even though some changes were made, the authors believe that, based on the conceptual analysis of the first year following this critical event, Canadian beef industry leaders and government alike did not learn sufficiently from the unfortunate events that occurred in Britain in 1996, even if some stakeholders believed that they had.

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