Saturday, March 6


A showdown in the Republican-controlled Washington state legislature led to the scuttling of several bills in the queue - including two bills related to the discovery of mad cow disease. Well, whaddaya know! "One would have outlined penalties for selling downer cows," reports the Tri-City Herald. "The other would have authorized the state Department of Agriculture to adopt rules to support industry efforts to comply with federal requirements for country of origin labeling and livestock identification. 'It's all dead,' said Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside." But wait! You know there's gotta be a silver lining... and there is: "One exception might be a bill to offer a tax break to meat packers."


Even in painstakingly even-handed editorials, in determinedly calm, unexcited tones, some outlets like The Boston Globe are starting to connect the dots for the public about the stakes here and the USDA'S so-called credibility:

    The USDA defends its concentration on downers [i.e. the small number of tests] by saying that the infected Holstein fit that category. But the owner of the slaughterhouse and the worker who killed the animal say that it was not a downer cow. US officials are now investigating to see if a crime was committed in the false listing of the cow as a downer.

    A further argument for wider testing has come from Europe, which uses more sensitive tests than the United States and requires them on all cattle 30 months or older. Italian researchers recently detected a new form of mad cow in two cows that had appeared to be healthy.

    The discovery is especially disconcerting because tissue samples from these cows resembled samples from human victims of a related spongiform encephalopathy, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The 300 or so cases of this disease each year in the United States had been assumed to be spontaneous aberrations, but scientists now wonder if they might have been caused by eating infected meat, like the human form of mad cow disease.

Wonder if there will be an in-depth Sunday story on this somewhere...

Friday, March 5


Although I sympathize completely with what he's up against, I worry about Dave Louthan, how his story gets bigger and, well, wilder as time goes on. But there's nothing I wouldn't put past the folks at the USDA given their previous history. So I gotta pay attention when Louthan says that Rodney Thompson, the press-sequestered USDA vet who supposedly marked the cow a downer,"was given a promotion and bumped up three pay grades in an effort to keep him silent," and attributes the info to a named source, meat inspector Donald West. Either Louthan's starting to go off the deep end, or the USDA is in some serious, serious trouble. It's one or the other.

Steve Mitchell says, "UPI has been unable to verify any of Louthan's allegations, in part because the USDA has refused to give out any information on Thompson. In fact, agency officials will not even verify if Thompson is still a USDA employee, saying they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Asked about the promotion and pay-raise allegations, USDA spokeswoman Alisa Harrison said, 'I haven't heard of that at all ...I'm sure that's part of what the (Inspector General) is taking a look at.'" Hmmm. Isn't that what they call a non-denial denial?

Meanwhile, the first lawsuit - a class-action lawsuit - has been filed in King County, WA over the mad cow meat that got to consumers' plates in the wake of the yank-now-confess-later recall. This is started by one family, but who knows how many other families ate some of that 19 tons of potentially deadly meat?

Thursday, March 4


Is it just me, or has the situation up there gotten even more crazy than the cows? Is this what we've got to look forward to in six months?


Here's a surprise: The USDA did a second surprise inspection at the National Zoo, and found defective bars on indoor enclosures in the Elephant House and "excessive amounts of peeling paint on the walls." The surprise is not that there'd be anything wrong with the one place the inspectors visited (this was a "focused" inspection), nor even that the USDA is seemingly doing its job of regulating the animal industry - no, the surprise is that there was already a first surprise inspection, back before Lucy Spelman resigned. Somehow I missed it - did you?

Well, it was a doozy: They found that a majority of the small primates were not being given their physical exams, "in part because the veterinarians have been preoccupied with treating older, sick animals." Again, folks, if you don't have the expertise/manpower to deal with 'em, stop dragging wild animals into situations like these. But more amazingly, a large number of active cases of irritable bowel disease in the apes, giving the animals recurrent cramps and diarrhea, were tied to the fact that the apes were being fed fish and beef when they normally eat a vegetarian diet. "Zoo spokeswoman Peper Long said that the apes have been eating fish and beef in an 'enrichment program' outside their normal diet" - OK, one more time, if you don't understand animal nutrition, don't make animals dependent on you for food, OK? Feeding vegetarian animals BEEF is not "enriching," but rather, as is obvious from the disease, "impoverishing." Enriching - who's anthropomorphizing now?

Wednesday, March 3


Well, this is pretty big, even if it doesn't make the front pages: "The government has begun a criminal investigation into whether records may have been falsified in the nation's first and only case of mad cow disease, the Agriculture Department's inspector general said Wednesday. AND: "In a separate investigation, the General Accounting Office is checking the feed industry's compliance with a Food and Drug Administration's rule aimed at keeping the infectious protein blamed for the disease out of cattle feed." (Guess I wasn't the only one who wanted to see the paperwork.) PLUS: "The criminal investigation is moving alongside a non-criminal review of the Agriculture Department's response to the mad cow case, the department's inspector general, Phyllis Fong, told a House subcommittee." And in case there's any doubt what the focus is of the criminal investigation, "Fong said it focuses on whether the infected Holstein cow truly was a 'downer' animal unable to stand or walk when it was slaughtered Dec. 9 in Moses Lake, Wash."

Dave Louthan is the guy that has been saying otherwise, and he hasn't shut up about it. Here's some of his latest prognostication: "I told everybody the meat people only had until calving season to get this fixed. That time is now upon us. All that inventory they have been holding back to keep the prices up must move now to make room for all the new feeders popping out now, today... There will be a huge surplus of fat cattle waiting to be slaughtered. Prices will continue to plummet. All the smaller feedlots will go under right away. They will demand subsidies. The American taxpayer, you, will pick that up. The Gov't is already broke. George W. spent all the money beating up Saddam. Higher taxes will be necessary." Dunno if all that's accurate, but it makes as much sense as anything the government's saying. And this part sounds familiar to readers of Meat Facts: "You're not going to get sick for a while, so unlike lysteria, E- coli, and salmonella, they can simply push it under the rug in the name of Profit. If this was a disease you got today and died from tomorrow, it would be a whole different ball game. As long as Joe Average is getting his bills paid on time and watching the evening news, which is completely devoid of any Mad Cow reports, he'll be content to sit there munching on contaminated beef and pretending that BSE is something that happens somewhere else. Besides, it's perfectly safe and risk free - the Gov't said so. Time after time." Lessee if people still credulously believe the USDA officials when they're speaking from jail.

UPDATE 3/4: While Dave Louthan proffers ever more dangerous accusations - e.g. three federal investigators pressured him to sign a written document "to change my story" (and this may be true, but Louthan better be ready to back it up), the USDA is putting the finishing touches on its "Schrodinger's Cow" defense. This is a cow that can be both a downer and not a downer, depending on whether it's being observed at any given moment. USDA's DeHaven: "there is nothing saying that an animal that is down cannot get up. So in fact both accounts could potentially be true." USDA's Julie Quick: "Clinically, a downer animal can get up and walk for brief periods of time." See? It was all just a matter of semantics. Go back to sleep.


Just a coincidence, of course, that Mickey D's has finally stopped "Super-Sizing." (Actually, it's probably also quite related to this.)

Tuesday, March 2


Gosh, this is disturbing - or would be, to anyone who could sincerely be surprised that the USDA lies to the American public: "When the USDA launched the recall of affected meat Dec. 23, officials put the total at 10,400 pounds, or 5.2 tons, a figure they repeated for nearly two months. But the actual amount was 38,000 pounds, or 19 tons, the agency now acknowledges."


That's what an Ohio woman found in the hamburger meat she'd just bought. She "says she may become a vegetarian after finding what appeared to be a mouse's foot, complete with five tiny toes and toenails, in a package of ground beef purchased at a supermarket." Hope PETA's sent her a starter kit...


Apparently it wasn't clear when the government stopped trials of Premarin and progestin back in July 2003 for their dangerous side effects. Now the NIH has stopped a large trial of women taking estrogen alone "after finding the pills not only failed to improve their health but may have slightly raised the risk of strokes." The 11,000 women in this part of the trial were taking Wyeth Co.'s Premarin, an estrogen-only pill made from the urine of pregnant mares. Another version of the story says that the women "had a significantly increased risk of stroke, and possibly a higher risk of dementia too." It's always important to apply the what-goes-around-comes-around theory when abusing animals. In a story on the plight of the horses involved, one person observes, "They work for us. And they make so much money. Then they're just tossed as a by-product." The same could be said, to a lesser degree, of all the women who were played for chumps by Wyeth and its ilk.

Monday, March 1


The always-illuminating Vegan Porn points us to the erstwhile "Cool2BReal" site - the one that was supposed to trick young girls into thinking beef was cool, and which was laughed off the World Wide Web - but now it's back, as "ZIP4TWEENS!" That's right. You know how much tweens love being called "tweens." That right there is hipness in a bottle.

But it gets better on the Mad Cow Disease FAQ page, a masterpiece of patronizing obfuscation with such selections as:

    Is it safe to eat beef?
    Yes, it is safe to eat beef. U.S. beef is still the safest in the world. "Mad cow disease" does not affect the meat you eat such as steaks, roasts and ground beef.


    In what type of beef is BSE found?
    It's really important to remember that the beef you eat does not have BSE. Foods such as steaks, roasts and ground beef are safe.


    Has anyone in the United States gotten sick from mad cow disease?
    No American has gotten sick from this fatal disease. About 150 people in the United Kingdom and other countries have gotten sick.
Guess they think "tweens" are too stupid to notice how they don't answer the questions being asked. To the question, In what type of beef is BSE found? they give us an answer that screams "Let's change the subject!" with types of beef where it's not found - although that's a lie too, both in mentioning ground beef, the highest-risk form, and in saying "the beef you eat" is definitely safe - unless, of course, you eat hot dogs. And as to whether anyone has died... well, let's just say there are a hell of a lot of suspicious deaths that "tweens" oughta be informed about... especially if they wanna outlive their "tweens."

UPDATE 3/2: UPI picks up the story, headlining it "Pro-beef site for 'tweens' going too far?" and noting that "tucked in among the colorful links is one that explains why tweens shouldn't worry about mad cow disease, and why beef is good for them. Beef is an ingredient in several of the snack recipes -- but no other meat. The site also advocates eating cheese and drinking milk, another cow product. For the essay contest, one question asked what the entrant's favorite beef dish was." Though the article twice stresses that it's the marketing to kids that's the problem, not the beef thing, the parents who are "spooked" would doubtless have no problem with a site encouraging liberal consumption of green vegetables - and with good reason.