Monday, January 19


Two very different sources are filling in the picture of a Mad Cow testing process that's about as airtight as a busted bagpipe. The Wall Street Journal has called into question the validity of the USDA's tests because the agency sometimes "permitted slaughterhouses to select which animals should be tested." The obvious problem is that "such a role by companies could have tainted the survey, because the companies' officials had an incentive to send only the brains of cattle that appeared to be healthy."

Meanwhile, on the other end of the country and the Journalistic Authority scale, a letter to the Columbia Basin Herald from a worker at the plant where the mad cow was slaughtered has raised troubling questions. "The USDA had us taking brain stem samples from downers and back door cripples only. Since we only had a few walkers on this trailer full of downers, we just killed her along with them. We took a brain sample from her head because the USDA gives up $10 per sample." So reports Dave Louthan of Moses Lake, making the claim that contrary to published reports, this cow was not even a downer when it was slaughtered; its BSE test happened purely by chance. He adds, "We had only been taking brain samples for about a month when we found this one. When the USDA said no more downers would be slaughtered, they essentially said no more BSE testing would be done."

UPDATE 1/23: Cow's 'downer' status comes into question - the letter-writing guy has been joined by two other people who were at Vern's Moses Lake Meats when the cow was killed, who saud the cow was a "walker," not a downer. Interestingly, one of the guys is the plant manager. He said, "She did walk off the trailer at our place," he said Tuesday. According to the letter-writing guy, when it came time to unload the cow, the animal became scared as it approached the loading ramp. To prevent the cow from trampling other cows that were laying down in the trailer, he killed it, he said. "If I hadn't shot it, it would have been walked to a holding pen and held" for slaughter at a later time, he said.
UPDATE 1/24: The Seattle Times has picked up the "walker cow" story, and has fleshed it out with more exquisite detail (such as more "eyewitness testimony" and quotes from letter writer Dave Louthan - "I did it because I liked to kill cows. I don't care if I'm hauling them, feeding them or killing them. As long as I'm around livestock, I'm happy. I'm a cowboy.") and more confirmation from the plant manager as well as the Government Accountability Project. It will be interesting to see where this goes...

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