Monday, August 01, 2005

And we say the cows are mad?

When bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, first surfaced in the United States in 2003, cattle ranchers and government officialsshrugged it off as a cow infected in Canada before being imported here.

When a native-born cow tested positive this June, they explained it away once again, saying the animal was infected before cattle feed restrictions were put in place in 1997.

And when a third possible domestic case surfaced last week, they hastened to note that the 12-year-old cow hadn't entered the food chain.

The story is always the same. Consumers are urged not to worry about the chance of a major outbreak of the disease, like the one that occurred in Europe a decade ago. They are assured they will be protected by the practices of the cattle industry and the policies of responsible government agencies.

In fact, those practices and policies are considered so ineffective that 64 nations have total or partial bans on U.S. beef products. And the two agencies charged with ensuring a safe beef supply, the Agriculture Department (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have become as much a part of the industry's public relations team as they are public health watchdogs. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns' response to each episode seems to be to tell everyone he's going to have beef for dinner.

The voice of PETA? Some gloom and doom liberal nanny? Try USA Today. How many problems can our government be bribed/lulled/bamboozled into ignoring? More than I can count, anyway. When the Jenga tower that is our society comes tumbling down, I suspect that the ensuing cascade failure will level everything.


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