The Madness of Our Mad Cow Policy

When the first undeniable case of American Mad Cow disease broke into the news last December, a host of Bush officials trotted out to shout: "Just an isolated case"..."America's beef supply is the safest in the world"...Trust us, we're experts." Even George told the media that he'd eaten beef for Christmas dinner -- so, see, no problem, all clean, don't think about it any more.

Yes, admitted the ag department's top animal scientist, the Mad Cow in question was part of a herd of 80 cattle that also could be infected, but, by gollies, our animal tracking system is excellent, so, "we feel confident that we are going to be able to determine the whereabouts of most, if not all of these animals, within the next several days." Trust us.

Seven weeks later, the ag scientist had to admit that only one-third of the suspect cattle could be found. "We never expected to be able to find all of them," he lied, apparently hoping we wouldn't recall his earlier promise. The other two-thirds couldn't be tracked and presumably had ended up in our lunches and dinners. Declaring the investigation over, he said, "It's time to move on."

Move on? To where? To a Mad Cow burger? So much for our "experts."

And when real experts do speak, the Bushites cover their ears. Ag Secretary Ann Veneman had attempted to calm public concern last December by convening a panel of international experts on Mad Cow, expecting the panel to say everything is okey-dokey. Instead, the experts concluded that the reason the USDA has found only one case of Mad Cow disease is that it has not looked very hard. Of 30 million cattle slaughtered each year, only 40,000 are tested for the deadly disease. The panel chairman said that USDA might find "a case a month" of Mad Cow if it was doing enough testing.

Rather than implementing any of the safety measures proposed by the panel, however, Veneman continues to mouth the industry line that this was just an isolated case and our beef supply is perfectly pure.

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