Tuesday, December 30


Even though our cattle-slaughter practices are completely safe (remember, there's no risk), the USDA today suddenly announced a ban on meat from 'downer' cows - something vegetarian groups have been fighting for in court for years, and which the USDA and the Bush administration have steadfastly opposed. This is part of a package of sweeping anti-BSE reforms the agency, by a strange coincidence, had been just about to get around to when this whole thing blew up ("Veneman said the announced changes have been planned for a while." Uh-huh.) It's yet another coincidence that keeping downers out of the food supply means they don't have to test them - er, unless they want Japan to start importing beef again...

Two quick items you may have missed: 1) The Village Voice laid it out on the table today with "The simple fact is the meat inspection system isn't any good and anybody who even attempts to stand up to the Big Boy ranchers does so at his or her peril," introducing us to Bill Lehman, a former inspector, who described his duties thusly: "I merely walk to the back of the truck. That's all I'm allowed to do. Whether there's boxed meat or carcasses in the truck, I can't touch the boxes. I can't open the boxes. I can't use a flashlight. I can't walk into the truck. I can only look at what is visible in the back of the trailer." Even so, he himself rejected up to 2.3 million pounds annually for reasons such as "pus-filled abscesses, sticky layers of bacteria leaving a stench, obvious fecal contamination, stains, metal shavings, blood, bruises, hair, hide, chemical residues, salmonella, added substances, and advanced disease symptoms." Gee, hope he didn't miss any in the corner of the truck.

And 2) here's some news: Animal testing is bogus! That is, the results found in one species can't be extrapolated to another. This comes from a Seattle Times article in which Jim Cullor, director of the University of California, Davis, veterinary-research center, says there's "almost no chance of getting sick." The "almost" qualifier, the Times notes, "reflects evidence the infectious agent is found in blood. Recent studies have also found it in mouse muscle, though Cullor says that's not a cause for concern. "With all due respect, a mouse is not a cow. A mouse is not a human." Oh! Well, now we know.

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