USAHA: United States
Animal Health Association


Governed byNo governing body
Mission StatementNo mission statement
PresidentRotates each year
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Overview The purpose of the United States Animal Health Association is to be a "think-tank" for the United States Department of Agriculture, to influence policy decisions, and steer the direction of the USDA

"The United States Animal Health Association (USAHA), a national non-profit organization, has about 1,400 members and works with state and federal animal health officials, veterinarians, livestock producers, national livestock and poultry organizations, research scientists, the extension service and seven foreign countries to control livestock diseases in the United States. The Association serves as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

Paper TrailSee PARA's Paper TrailNew window link indicator for communications between PARA and USAHA.
PARA & USAHA - For the RecordSee PARA & USAHA - For the Record  for a description of important events regarding PARA's involvement at USAHA, including texts of speeches, PARA's Reports and Press Releases about USAHA

Before proceeding further, we would encourage you to read the Important Developments Page prior to reading the rest of this webpage. This will give you some background which may be helpful in evaluating PARA's Concerns about USAHA, in light of significant developments that have taken place around the world.


The United States Animal Health Association represents all 50 states, 7 foreign countries and 18 allied groups serving health, technical and consumer markets. USAHA has 33 working committees concerned about all diseases affecting major domestic livestock.

One of those committees is the Johne's Disease Committee.  In 1994, the National Johne's Working Group was formed as a subcommittee of the Johne's Disease Committee.  According to the Proceedings of the 99th annual meeting of the USAHANew window link indicator, the purpose of the National Johne's Working Group was to be a "task force on the relationship between MAP and Crohn's disease". Although the original purpose of the NJWG was to investigate the relationship between M. paratuberculosis and Crohn's disease, the current work being carried out by the NJWG has nothing to do with Crohn's disease.

It would appear that USAHA realized the issue of MAP infecting humans through cattle derived foods and causing Crohn's disease could be a very damaging one, as control of the National Johne's Working Group was given to representatives of the animal industries:


"With many important ramifications for both the USAHA and producer groups, the chair of the Johne's Committee and the president of the USAHA, Dr. Wes Towers, agreed it would be prudent to have the task force, later to be called the National Johne's Working Group (NJWG) appointed by the President of the USAHA. During a meeting of the USAHA executive committee in Washington, DC at the National Cattleman's Association office on February 28, 1994, Dr. Wes Towers, President USAHA, appointed John Adams (National Milk Producer's Federation), Gary Weber (National Cattleman's Association) and Robert Whitlock (Chair Johne's Committee) as co-chairs of the National Johne's Working Group (NJWG)."


John Adams represents the National Milk Producers FederationNew window link indicator, a registered group of political lobbyists which represents the interests of the U.S. dairy industry in Washington, D.C.

Gary Weber represents the National Cattleman's Beef AssociationNew window link indicator, a group which represents the political interests of the U.S. beef industry in Washington. Gary Weber was the beef industry representative on the now infamous Oprah Winfrey show about Mad Cow Disease.

For details of how the NJWG has been avoiding the issue of the relationship between MAP and Crohn's disease, the purpose for which it was founded, see the page National Johne's Working Group.

PARA's Involvement at USAHA

Since May of 1997 PARA has repeatedly requested that the responsible agencies of the U.S. Government take precautionary measures to ensure the protection of the public health by requiring that our food supply be free from MAP. In furtherance of that objective, delegates from PARA have attended the 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 USAHA conventions, addressing the National Johne's Working Group and/or Johne's Disease Committee each year.   In 2002 we chose not to attend that meeting, but did submit our "Formal Statement to the Johne's Disease Committee, National Johne's Working Group, and United States Animal Health Association."  

During these conventions, Resolutions involving recommended action on a particular issue or disease are submitted by the various committees to the Executive Committee of USAHA, where they thereafter go to a vote for acceptance by the membership of USAHA.   At each and every Johne's Disease Committee meeting that PARA has attended since 1997, we put forth Resolutions we deemed important.   Each and every year, without fail, we have witnessed political maneuvering by those who oppose our objectives.  

Summary of USAHA's Actions - For the Record

We have been very careful to preserve the record for posterity sake because we are certain that one day accountability issues will face certain members of USAHA.   See PARA & USAHA - For the Record.  From this webpage you can access all background material that is pertinent to the chronology of events listed below, including full text of speeches, backup documents and copies of Resolutions submitted.

In 1997 (Louisville, Kentucky) and 1998 (Minneapolis, Minnesota), PARA's Resolutions to test the retail milk and assess ground beef for MAP contamination were voted down by the Johne's Disease Committee.  They rejected PARA's Resolutions, despite a warning given to them at the 1998 meeting by guest speaker Paul Strandberg, of the Minnesota State Attorney General's Office.  Mr. Strandberg warned the Johne's Disease Committee:  "Cover-up tactics could get one on '60 Minutes'  in the middle of a media circus."  

Truth has a way of getting out, like it or not. 

In 1999 (San Diego, California), PARA informed the NJWG and Johne's Disease Committee that there were ample and significant developments in that preceding year to convince the responsible agencies to revisit this issue and take immediate action to protect the public health.  Apparently these significant actions prompted the Johne's Disease Committee on Monday, October 11, 1999, to vote unanimously in favor of the two Resolutions submitted by PARA:  Resolution No. 43, "Assessment of Ground Beef Contamination," and Resolution No. 44, "Testing of Retail Milk."   In fact, there was not a single objection voiced during discussions about these Resolutions.   Little did we know at that time that key officials had other plans for the fate of these Resolutions.

When these Resolutions were presented to the USAHA membership on Thursday, October 14, 1999, they were disapproved. The reason cited for this action:

"During the discussions of these resolutions, there was much concern about the feasibility of end-product testing of milk and meat for an organism that science has not confirmed as being the cause of Crohn's in humans, and the usage of this information."

In other words:  The Executive Committee of USAHA was afraid of what they might find in the milk and beef if they tested it, and they were concerned what the American public would do with that information!  This statement presents USAHA as not only primarily self-serving, but further, as blatantly contemptuous of both its own member producers and the American public.

On November 9, 1999, PARA sent a letter to Dr. Ernest W. Zirkle, President of USAHA, demanding an answer for their actions.  We have yet to get an explanation in writing from any official at USAHA as to the reasons cited for rejection of these resolutions.  

In 2000 (Birmingham, Alabama)  the political atmosphere intensified when PARA once again addressed the Johne's Disease Committee, expressing our concerns and urging USAHA to act responsibly on this issue. Apparently the Johne's Disease Committee was influenced by these presentations, voting in favor of the two Resolutions submitted by PARA:  Resolution No. 12, "Assessment of Ground Beef Contamination," and Resolution No. 13, "Testing of Retail Milk."   As in 1999, these Resolutions were once again submitted to the USAHA membership for approval.   On October 26, 2000, they were disapproved, just as they were in 1999.  We were greatly disappointed in 1999 when this happened, to our surprise.  In 2000,  however, we were fully prepared for what transpired after the Resolutions were passed onto the Executive Committee of USAHA.  The reason? 

Just hours before the Johne's Disease Committee meeting began on October 23, 2000, PARA was told that  there were individuals on the Johne's Disease Committee who would oppose them this year, and it was quite unlikely they would even be passed out of that committee. Additionally, we were informed that if they did pass the Johne's Disease Committee vote, key members of USAHA's Executive Committee and Officers of USAHA would disapprove them.   

We were told that there were several reasons why these Resolutions would not be passed: (1) The background information was insufficient; (2) USAHA was "not ready" for such action; (3) The Johne's Disease Committee would "offend" the Executive Committee of USAHA by submitting the same Resolutions that were submitted and "killed" by the Executive Committee in 1999. Furthermore, we were urged to withdraw the Resolutions, and instead, wait yet another year and negotiate the terms of the Resolutions at the following year's USAHA meeting.

PARA was understandably enraged by this approach behind closed doors, and, of course, ignored their admonitions and stated in no uncertain terms we will never compromise the health of people for the sake of politics.  We were not intimidated by these actions; in fact, it only furthered our resolve.  We then put for the Resolutions.   They passed.  And as explained, they were ultimately killed a few days later by USAHA's 2000 Executive Committee.      

On December 1, 2000, PARA sent a letter to Dr. Bob R. Hillman, President of USAHA, with copies to 12 key USAHA officials, DHHS Secretary Donna Shalala, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, demanding an answer for USAHA's actions that year.  We have yet to get an explanation in writing from any official at USAHA as to the reasons cited for rejection of these Resolutions. 

In October 2001 a PARA delegation attended the USAHA meetings in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  PARA's Cheryl Miller gave a compelling speech to the Johne's Disease Committee and made a presentation before representatives of the National Academy of Sciences


PARA's Concerns

PARA's concern in relation to the United States Animal Health Association is that it is a vehicle by which the animal industry is able to influence food safety policy.  Due to extensive industry influence, there exists a situation where the fox is permitted to dictate how the hen-house should be guarded.

The tobacco industry debacle should serve as a wake-up call to the cattle industry.  It's been known for years that nicotine is addictive and cigarettes are bad for you! But milk and beef are different. There are serious advertising campaigns, many specifically targeting children, constantly telling consumers - mothers, fathers and children -  that milk is good for you - that milk is, in fact, necessary and beneficial to one's health.

The dairy and beef industries can never claim that they were not sufficiently warned about the potential impending crisis. The consequences for these industries could be catastrophic if it is proven that the industries had good reason to suspect a potential problem with their products, and yet, although it was within their power to exercise the precautionary principle to protect the children of this nation, the industries, nevertheless, chose not to do so.

We would like to point out that during the Congressional hearings several years ago concerning the Firestone tire issue, the pivotal question was not: "Why are the tires bad?" Rather, the question was: "WHEN did you know there was a risk to consumers?"  

The answer to that question when directed to the cattle industry is -

This potential human health risk has been known for decades, and sadly, to date, industry leaders and the bureaucracy that protects them have looked the other way, at best. 

PARA feels very strongly that USAHA has chosen to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution on this issue.  USAHA's actions have undoubtedly contributed to the PUBLIC BETRAYAL that has taken place surrounding the debate on the MAP-Crohn's disease issue.


Action you can take

Please visit PARA's "How to Help" section to learn how you can get involved in creating awareness about this vital issue. 

Contact PARA:
Paratuberculosis Awareness & Research Association, 1999-2003.