Friday, April 7


You can almost set your watch by it: After much hullabaloo, back when the national news media was focused on this, as to how it was going to get right to the bottom of the Alabama Mad Cow and its origins, the USDA has come up with next to nothing, and hardly anyone is reporting this discrepancy. Capital Press Agriculture Weekly, though, notes that as of last week, the cow's origins "remain a mystery."

The article notes that "USDA promised daily Internet updates on the investigation, posted at, then didn’t give any new information for the next three days." And after those three days, there's been squat - go check for yourself.

In a continuation of the tradition of USDA follies, the article goes on to note that the agency's initial announcement got the breed of the cow wrong, and that upon digging up the body, had "estimated" the cow's age at 10 years. But there's some contention about that estimate, since it conveniently dates the animal's birth before the 1998 feed ban. South Korea, for one, isn't blithely accepting this "estimate" and says the U.S. has failed to prove its claim that a cow found infected with BSE there last month is 10 years old. The country will continue to ban US beef until the USDA produces more compelling evidence of this claim. I'm sure they'll step up and delivers that evidence immediately - assuming, that is, that the dog didn't eat it.

Thursday, April 6


More ranting about ads: I opened my New Yorker to find an ad that I at first thought was a parody, it was so ridiculous: Warning readers against eating whales and then suggesting that's the only way you'd need to worry about getting too much mercury, the ad has no brand or affilliation attached to it - it only directs readers to a site that I thought was the joke's tipoff:

But no, the people behind this (who - surprise! - turn out to be Philip-Morris-funded Rick Berman and deadly-food-industry cohorts once again) think FISHSCAM is a good brand-name for their attempt to bat away the mountain of documentation showing the dangers of mercury in a wide variety of fatty fishes. Yes, that's "fishes," not, ahem, "whales."

The site's name and the fact that their entire campaign is built around a 'straw mammal' argument are funny enough. What's funnier still is their annotated enemies list. Usually Berman is content to simply trump up any flaws he can find in a given organization, but here they have to be tied to the reckless claims the organizations have made about fish-eating. And as you read down the page, eventually, despite Berman's attempts to rebut them, the sheer number and variety of attacks on the healthfulness of fish from divergent sources suggest not some fearmongering conspiracy but a panoply of reasons, some more compelling than others, why fish should not by any rational measure be considered a "health food."

Tuesday, April 4


Interesting little NYTimes story about a firehouse full of vegan firefighters, who are not "that way" because of the bond they've created with any animals whose lives they've saved, but out of a sheer, bald-faced acknowledgement that they need to be as healthy as possible to do their job well.

Monday, April 3


A new study in the April issue of Nutrition Reviews shows that "vegetarian populations tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters, and they experience lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other life-threatening conditions linked to overweight and obesity." The article notes that "Rates of obesity in the general population are skyrocketing, while in vegetarians, obesity prevalence ranges from 0 percent to six percent."

Sunday, April 2


Remember how commercials for kids' toys used to show the toys doing stuff that kids might imagine they could do, but the toys wouldn't actually do by themselves, and advertisers were eventually forced to drop these flights of fancy? There's an analogous situation in a commercial I just saw when I watched a Bravo show that contained a five-second clip of my quail-hunting game.

The commercial, from the dairy industry, depicts a neighbor known to avoid milk attempting to pick up the handles of a wheelbarrow, and his arms falling off. A kid who has been exhorted by his mom to "drink your milk" (again, reminding us that kids actually dislike cow's milk whenever it doesn't have cookies attached and have to be cajoled, threatened and wheedled into drinking it) sees this and is shocked into drinking his milk, spilling it all over himself and the table in his eagerness.

So I get that this is all supposed to be a big hilarious joke, but it's occurring in the context of an ongoing disinformation campaign through which the dairy industry attempts to persuade the public that cow's milk is essential for strong bones. There's no indication within the reality of the ad that the neighbor is "pretending" to have lost his arms, thus a violent tragedy is presented without qualification as the clear result of not drinking milk.

Other than kids' toys, where's the analogy here? Is there any other food, medicine or otherwise, that is allowed to lie to the public through this "entertaining" venue? Would an ad depicting how eating one hamburger causes an immediate heart attack pass muster on the airwaves? For link fun, here's a fun overview of some of the issues involved in deceptive advertising, and this one certainly fits right in there.