Saturday, January 3


The meat industry and its lackeys are doing a terrific job at decrying the "hysteria" about Mad Cow that the media are supposedly fomenting, even though a quick trip to Google News shows that most media coverage of the "effects" of the "scare" has been to show how little "scare" there is. Still, there are a couple wild-eyed granola-crunching media types coming down hard on the USDA: The Wall Street Journal, for example, details exactly why the new measures are still not enough to protect consumers, including the facts that 1) Cows still eat the ground-up remains of other animals, 2) Bovine blood products are fed to calves, and 3) Few animals are tested for BSE. (All points were made more fully and conclusively by Michael Greger)."So what can consumers do?" The WSJ asks, responding, "Of course, the ultimate protection is to stop eating beef."

And the (Madison) Capital Times slams Veneman's USDA with refreshing candor: "Ann Veneman's subservience to the agribusiness interests she once served as a lobbyist is no longer merely troublesome. It's dangerous." As to the "low-risk"/"no-risk" reassurances, "Veneman has no idea whether she is right." The editorial concludes that "By failing to acknowledge genuine concerns regarding BSE, and by failing even now to respond to those concerns, Veneman has failed U.S. farmers and consumers. She should be ashamed, and the rest of us should be looking for better sources of information about the safety of our food supply."

So, yeah, I'm one of those people looking for better sources of information than mealy-mouthed platitudes from someone everyone in America now knows is acting out of a clear conflict of interest. I want to see documents. Here's what I'd like to see - and what I think every person in America deserves to have access to immediately:

  • Those documents of Mad Cow testing for 2002 and 2003 that to the best of my knowledge have still not been released to UPI or the public. If the bedrock of the "no big deal" argument is that this is just one cow, let's see that backed up, hmmm?
  • The exact source of the claim that there are about 200,000 downer cattle per year in the U.S. - since the National Market Cow and Bull Audit supposedly puts the number at 1.8 million a year... kind of a big difference.
  • All pieces of the paper trail linking the cow that was sold to American consumers as meat to a Canadian cow that's conveniently six years old. Suffice to say this story still seems to have a lot of odd discrepancies... brucellosis, anyone?
  • The paperwork that backs up widely-parroted claims that the rate of compliance with the 1997 feed ban is now at "99.9 percent" - given that in 2000 it was less than 75%, and in 2002, the GAO said the FDA "has been using inaccurate, incomplete, and unreliable data to track and oversee feed ban compliance." Where does this number (it's like 100%, see, only if there's another screw-up they can say, "well, that came from that .1% that was in non-compliance") come from? Actual inspections? Self-assessment? Wild stab in the dark? Or most likely, a P.R. meeting? Let's see the data!

    There are other documents, but if we could just see all of these immediately, I'd feel the people in charge of this are at least playing by some of the rules.

    UPDATE 1/6: OK, even though no documents have been released to the public, the US and Canada both agree that the cow's DNA matches, so I'll check that one - the one that was already taken as fact anyway - off the list. One down, three to go...

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