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Thursday, December 25, 2003

 

Mad cow in Washington - risks, greed, and politics


Although most news articles cite the USDA's estimate of 130,000 downed cows slaughtered annually, this document, on the Friends of the Earth's website, estimates that there are 195,000 to 1 million downed animals each year, and that the USDA tests hardly any of them, although they are the highest risk population for BSE (mad cow disease). The report, "Mad Cow Disease: Are Americans at Risk?", is an excellent summary of the European experience as well. It notes, for example, that in Europe, 100% of downed animals are tested, while in the US only 2% of these high- risk animals are tested.

The report also cites a July 2003 study suggesting that 3 to 13 percent of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia actually suffered from CJD, the form of mad cow disease that has spread to humans.

After reading the report I'm convinced that the best way to assure the safety of the US beef supply is to institute testing similar to that which protects Europeans and to ban feeding and slaughter methods that propagate this dread disease.

As to the risks, it's likely we're not being given all the information we need to assess risk. It will take vigilance on the part of the USDA to protect consumers, but so far, their pattern and practice is to protect the industry. As to Congress -- read on.


AP Dec 23

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States' first major mad cow scare comes just a week after a court decision reviving a lawsuit against the government's policy on so-called "downer" animals so sick or injured they must be dragged to market.

The suit, pushed by members of the New York-based animal rights group Farm Sanctuary, claims the Department of Agriculture is not doing enough to protect consumers from mad cow disease in the meat of downed animals.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals resurrected the 1998 lawsuit last week, finding a lower judge had wrongly dismissed the case. In dismissing the case, the judge found the possibility of infection from mad cow disease in America too remote to justify the suit.

The appeals panel disagreed, ruling 2-1 that the man who brought the case, Michael Baur, had "successfully alleged a credible threat of harm from downed cattle."


AP Dec 24

Congress Scuttled Meat Protection Measure

...

"I said on the floor of the House that you will rue the day that because of the greed of the industry to make a few extra pennies from 130,000 head, the industry would sacrifice the safety of the American people," said Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., chief House sponsor. "It's so pound foolish."

'''
The Agriculture Department estimates that 130,000 downed animals that are too injured or sick to stand or walk unassisted are slaughtered every year.
'''

Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., a negotiator who voted for the measure in the House, said Democratic negotiators never had a chance to fight for the proposal.

"The Republicans, the leadership, shut off the conference, they closed it down, and this is one of a number of provisions which were handled in a backroom deal without the Democrats there and with only the Republican leadership," said Hinchey.




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