Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Mexican Affairs (Ray)27

The attached memorandum giving the history of the importation of Zebu cattle into Mexico illustrates clearly the consistent and forceful attitude which the Department has maintained in the matter.

The attitude of the American Embassy, México, D. F., and of Ambassador Messersmith is reported in the following despatches: no. 26866, October 17, 1945; no. 26949, October 21, 1945; no. 26882, October 23, 1945; no. 29023, March 30, 1946; no. 29313, April 30, 1946; no. 29357, May 8, 1946.28 The Ambassador repeatedly expressed his concern to the Mexican authorities about the shipments of Zebu cattle, but favored their being permitted to land on Sacrificios Island. He also pressed strongly in the above-mentioned despatches, for the establishment by this Government of an international quarantine station.29

I understand from Mr. Braden and from Mr. Acheson30 that when the question arose of the importation of Brazilian Zebu bulls into Mexico and the Department, in cooperation with the Bureau of Animal Industry of the Department of Agriculture, instructed our Embassy to protest to the Mexican Government and point out that such [Page 1049] importations constituted a violation of our sanitary treaty with Mexico,31 Ambassador Messersmith telephoned both Mr. Braden and Mr. Acheson urging that we make no protest.

Guy W. Ray

History of the Importation of Zebu Cattle Into Mexico

In accordance with your request, the following history of the importation of Zebu cattle into Mexico has been prepared:

In October, 1945, 120 head of Zebu cattle were imported into Mexico from Brazil. At that time this Government expressed its great concern to the Mexican Government and its fear that such action would result in an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease with disastrous consequences for both the United States and Mexico. However, the cattle were allowed to land on the understanding that this would not constitute a precedent. The statement was made to Mexican officials that we would consider what measures might be necessary to protect our industry from possible consequences.

During February, 1946, the Mexican Government permitted the importation of three fighting bulls from Spain (an area considered to be infected) and at that time the Mexican Government’s attention was again called to our previous attitude in connection with the Zebu shipment.

During March, 1946, this Government informed the American Embassy in Mexico, D.F., that it had learned of possible further shipments of cattle from Brazil to Mexico, and our Embassy again informed the Mexican Government of our concern. On April 7, 1946, 327 Zebu cattle were shipped from Brazil, and about April 25, 1946, the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture assured our Department of Agriculture that the cattle would not be allowed to land.

On April 29, 1946, the Department instructed our Embassy in Mexico once again to express our concern over the proposed landing and referred to our feeling that this would be a violation of Article IX of the 1928 Sanitary Treaty between the United States and Mexico. (Article IX provides that no importation of domestic ruminants shall [Page 1050] be authorized from foreign countries or zones where … diseases … appear frequently … until at least 60 days have elapsed without any outbreak.) Our Department of Agriculture has informed Mexico that the disease is endemic in Brazil and no area can be considered free.

On May 7–11 the Zebu cattle in question were landed on Sacrificios Island, off Veracruz, Mexico, and on May 28, 1946, our Department of Agriculture ordered cattle coming into this country from Mexico to be subjected to a 15-day quarantine.

On the basis of representations made by the Mexican Government, urging the removal of the quarantine, the question was discussed at a Meeting of the Mexican-United States Agricultural Commission in Los Angeles on July 22, 1946. This Government agreed to the sending of a joint commission to investigate animal disease conditions in Mexico, and if the investigation was negative, the United States would consider revoking the quarantine order. (At that time the Mexican Government gave its assurance that the 327 Zebu cattle would not be allowed to remain on Mexican territory.) The United States veterinary representatives proceeded to Mexico as agreed and spent over a month inspecting herds of cattle that had been in contact with the Zebu importation of 1945, as well as the 1946 shipment of bulls (which by that time had been landed in the vicinity of Veracruz). No signs of disease were found and consequently the United States quarantine was lifted on October 18, 1946.

During November, 1946, a cattle disease broke out in the vicinity of Veracruz, Mexico, which spread to four other Mexican States. Extensive field investigations were carried out by Mexican veterinarians with the collaboration of United States Government experts, and the disease was determined to be hoof and mouth disease. In view of this development, existing laws of the United States made it mandatory to close our borders to all ruminants or swine proceeding from Mexico, as of December 27, 1946.32

The above chronological account makes it evident that this Government did everything possible to prevent the development of conditions leading to an outbreak of the dread hoof and mouth disease, [Page 1051] and the blame for the present epidemic, which may be disastrous for the livestock of the North American continent, must be placed squarely upon the Mexican Government.

  1. Addressed to the Assistant Secretary of State for American Republic Affairs (Braden) and to the Director of the Office of American Republic Affairs (Briggs).
  2. None printed.
  3. For Joint Resolution 364 (Public Law 522) to provide for the establishment of an international animal quarantine station on Swan Island, approved July 24, 1946. see 60 Stat. 633.
  4. Dean Acheson, Under Secretary of State.
  5. The Convention of March 16, 1928, between the Government of the United States and the Government of Mexico on safeguarding livestock interests through the prevention of infectious and contagious diseases; for text of Convention, see Foreign Relations, 1928, vol. iii, p. 317.
  6. A press statement of December 27 explained the imperative need for such action as defense against the spread of foot-and-mouth disease to cattle in the United States; this country as well as Mexico and Central America had been kept free of the disease since 1929. This statement was issued in response to a recommendation by Ambassador Thurston who anticipated that the embargo would have serious economic as well as political repercussions in Mexico, since that time of the year was the usual peak of movement of Mexican cattle into the United States for grazing and later feeding and it was estimated that usually nearly half a million cattle a year came into the United States from Mexico in this movement.