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Ex-wrestler takes up mad cow cause
By BILL GRAVELAND


COCHRANE, Alta. - A retired professional wrestler wants Canadians to use an online petition to push the federal government toward getting live Canadian cattle moving into the United States again.

"Cowboy Dan" Kroffat's petition says simply: "We care that a huge sector of Canadians are being severely affected by the fact that the US-Canadian border is still closed to full beef trade. We want to say 'Open the Border!' " Kroffat, 59, a Canadian wrestling hall of famer, has also performed under the monikers "King Crow" and "Dynamite Dan."

He said he isn't convinced federal politicians are doing all they can to persuade Washington to reopen the border, which has been closed since a single case of mad cow disease was discovered in northern Alberta in May of 2003.

"If we are a thorn in their ass, then so be it. I wish to be the biggest thorn they've ever had," he said at a news conference Wednesday near this southern Alberta community in the heart of Canada's cattle country.

"We can make a difference and the politicians will have to take notice."

Kroffat said he hopes to get between 50,000 and 100,000 names on the petition, which will run until the World Beef Eating Championship wraps up in Cochrane on the Labour Day weekend.

He said Alberta Premier Ralph Klein was supportive of the petition when the two golfed together a few weeks ago.

Bruce Bamford, who has a ranch south of Calgary and was among the cattle producers attending the news conference, said any support is welcome.

"I think it's a great opportunity for people to show their support for the industry and I wouldn't say it's a drop in the bucket. Even if you get a million drops in a bucket you've got a pail full - so everything helps," said Bamford.

Rancher Eric Butters, a director with Alberta Beef Producers, said the petition is a morale booster.

"The industry is in the biggest wreck it's ever been in. It's not too late yet, but the fall run is coming when most of the ranchers are selling their calves and yearlings," said Butters.

"That's the once-a-year payday and, boy, we really need to see something positive or the feedlots just aren't going to have the confidence to pick up these cattle."

Conservative MP Myron Thompson used the news conference to call on Prime Minister Paul Martin to set up a task force, made up of all parties and industry officials, to devise a strategy to get the border open.

"Calling government back into session on Oct. 4 is not good enough. Oct. 4 is way too late for many and even tomorrow is too late for some," said Thompson, the MP for Wildrose.

Thompson said he was discouraged that the financial impact of mad cow disease doesn't seem to rate as a disaster.

"When I see rallies (on Parliament Hill) regarding a radio station (CHOI) in Quebec that brings 5,000 people out about a decision to shut down a radio station -in my view there should be 500,000 on that same hill regarding this BSE issue," he said.

The plight of Canadian ranchers is a national, not a regional problem, said Kroffat.

He noted British Columbians have gone through hard financial times because of the softwood lumber dispute and Atlantic Canadians have suffered through the decline of their fishing industry.

Kroffat retired from the ring after winning the North American wrestling title in 1977.