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Wednesday, December 24, 2003

 

Mad Cow in Washington


Must the Free Range Gourmet give up red meat entirely?

The Free Range Gourmet seldom eats red meat -- but last night we enjoyed some roast beef at a holiday party. We ate without fear and enjoyed our hosts' fine pupus immensely. Suppose we knew... would we have skipped the roast beef? I think I would have.

Although the Washington (state) mad cow report has just hit the news, the cow in question was slaughtered on December 9, two weeks ago. Many articles, including the first one below, reflect denials that there is real trouble ahead, as officials and industry representatives play down the possibility of that one cow causing any trouble. Either we're told "infectious portions of the animal were removed", or we're simply offered a blanket assertion that the risk to humans is very low. 

An interview on this morning's Democracy Now program was not so reassuring: there are nerves and blood vessels throughout the animal, so can we say that removing certain parts eliminates the worry? The interview also raised major concerns about the practices of the US cattle industry, an important sector of our export economy. Click the link to the program below to hear that point of view.

Also very troubling is the last article cited below, a UPI report that the USDA refused to release mad cow records. The USDA is supposed to be protecting you and me, not the industry it regulates. The EPA let us down by declaring New York City air around the rubble of the Twin Towers to be safe to breath when it wasn't, and now the USDA won't release records on the safety of our food supply. What exactly is going on in Washington (DC)?

This will certainly play out more in the days and weeks to come. If there is just this one cow (can it be?) then perhaps it will blow over. If not, what effect will it have on Atkins dieters and others? What effect on the US economy? What effect on Hawaii's economy? Even if our cattle is grass-fed, can we vouch for where the animals came from originally?  Many questions.

"... Meat from the animal, slaughtered Dec. 9, traveled through three processing plants before a test revealed the problem 12 days later. Officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture insisted, however, that infectious portions of the animal were removed at the slaughterhouse and diverted to a rendering plant...."

"The Hawai'i Department of Agriculture said last night it was unlikely Hawai'i livestock would be traced to the farm in Washington where a case of mad cow disease has surfaced...."

"Local cattle ranchers are unsure how news of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease will affect their livelihood here.

Until more is known about how foreign countries will react, the attitude of ranchers here and across the country is to wait and see."

"...TOKYO -- The mad cow disease scare in the United States spread quickly to Asia, where nations including top U.S. markets Japan and South Korea blocked the import of American beef products after a cow in Washington state tested positive for the illness...."

",,,The USDA claims to have tested approximately 20,000 cows for the disease in 2002 and 2003, but has been unable to provide any documentation in support of this to UPI, which first requested the information in July.

In addition, former USDA veterinarians tell UPI they have long suspected the disease was in U.S herds and there are probably additional infected animals...."

Guests on the program are:

John Stauber, co-founder of PR Watch and co-author of the book, Mad Cow USA: Could The Nightmare Happen Here? (Common Courage Press, 1997) which reveals how mad cow disease has emerged as a result of modern, intensive farming practices.

and

Howard Lyman, author of Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth From the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat. A former cattle rancher-turned-vegetarian and food safety activist. In 1996, Lyman revealed, to a national television audience, how the cattle industry potentially exposed Americans to mad cow disease by feeding cows the remains of live animals - including other cows. As a result of his remarks, Lyman was named a co-defendant with Oprah Winfrey in the infamous "veggie libel" case brought by Texas ranchers in Amarillo.


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