The controversial whistleblower who alerted Canadians to the use of growth hormones to increase milk production is dead at 84.
Shiv Chopra sparked debate in 1989 when he and fellow scientist Margaret Haydon testified before a Senate committee they were being pressured to approve bovine growth hormone (BGH) for use in dairy cows.
The move made him a hero to some and a Luddite hindering progress to others. BGH was never approved for use in Canada, and many credit the actions of the pair.
In the years following, Chopra continued to weigh in on issues surrounding animal and human health, remaining perennially in the headlines for stances on other veterinary drugs and practices.
Following the discovery of a case of BSE in Alberta they wrote then federal health minister Anne McLellan urging a total ban on animal feeds containing rendered animal products.
In 2001 the Federal Court ruled the scientists had the right to voice their concerns in the BGH case because public interest overrides employer loyalty.
In 2004 Chopra, Haydon and fellow dissident scientist Gerard Lambert were fired for “insubordination,” prompting then prime minister Paul Martin to deny the firings were linked to whistleblowing.
By then Chopra was near retirement age, but that didn’t stop him from spending most of the rest of his life in pursuit of reinstatement.
Haydon and Lambert were both reinstated in 2016, but the relevant government agency upheld Chopra’s dismissal.
Among those paying tribute to Chopra were the Council of Canadians and the National Farmers’ Union.
Peter Dowling was the NFU Region 3 (Ontario) co-ordinator during that time and the organization was deep into its campaign against BGH.
“We became aware of a small band of dissident Health Canada veterinary scientists who had grave concerns about the prospects of approving rBGH for use in Canada,” Dowling said in an NFU release. “This was very exciting news.”
Dowling went on to call the scientist’s actions a “huge boost” to the campaign and a direct link to the product never being approved in Canada.