Animal Writes
4 March 2001 Issue
20/20 = 40 Jokers

by Robert Cohen - 

There are 52 cards in a deck. Remove the aces, kings, and queens, and you're left with 40 cards. How symbolic. I just watched the award winning television show 20/20, and came away feeling cheated. Their Mad Cow Disease segment was interesting if not basic, but they left out all of the aces, kings and queens. Fifty-two cards would have produced a winner of a program. Instead, they loaded the deck with jokers. Such is the nature of an industry who derives their revenue from... yeah, you guessed it. Those who they pretend to monitor for the public good.

Television crews come and go. Their interviews last for two hours, then the tapes go into post production. Weeks later, you watch yourself say 15 seconds of the least important aspect of your agenda. You wonder, what was the point? Such is the nature of prime time network television.

As I watched 20/20's Mad Cow story, I should have known what was in store eight minutes before Barbara Walters introduced the opening segment:


Immediately preceding 20/20 was Regis Philbin's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" As I was loading a tape into my video recorder, a dairy industry commercial came on. There on my TV screen was a Captain Hook-like pirate. He entered a room filled with the meanest looking group of sailors. On a
table was an enormous wedge of cheese. In place of the traditional hook, the leader of the cutthroats uncovered a cheese slicer. Everybody cheered. Over the screen was printed this message: Ah, the power of cheese.


One can no longer give blood in America and not be alerted to Mad Cow Disease. The questionnaire contains this query: Did you live in England?

Scientists are in agreement. Blood can pass on the Prion particle responsible for Mad Cow Disease.

Will 20/20 ever ask, "What is milk?" I would tell them that milk is composed of dead red and white blood cells. The Food and Drug Administration calls these cells "somatic cells." Milk with more than 750 million somatic cells cannot legally be sold in America. It takes just one Prion to become infected with Mad Cow Disease. Every farmer in America knows that blood often flows from the udder to the milk. In a sense, milk is nature's blood transfusion. If blood components contain Prions (they do), then so does the milk from infected cows.

Many anti-dairy people refer to milk as white blood. That is essentially what it is. The average dairy cow in America produces 24.5 quarts of milk each day. During the course of that production, the equivalent of 20,000 pounds of blood will filter through her udder.

Ten pounds of milk are required to make one pound of hard cheese. Those pirates would sooner walk the plank than come down with a disease that turns human brains into sponges.

What else would I tell 20/20? More truths that would never make it to the air.

I would tell them that the USDA has quarantined seventeen Charlois cattle in northeastern Alabama. One animal from that same herd was sold to Canada, and developed Mad Cow Disease.

I would tell them that twelve percent of the Alzheimer's brains stored in a depository at the University of Pittsburgh were not Alzheimer's deaths. Instead, they were the human variant of Mad Cow Disease.

I would tell them that Ralston Purina has fed ground animal parts to feedlot cattle this year, despite an FDA ban. 20/20 reported that the practice ceased four years ago.

We viewers learned nothing new from 20/20's so-called expose. In the spirit of journalistic betrayal, Barbara Walters closed the piece by asking the reporter if he would continue to eat steak. After his affirmative reply, she wished him an enjoyable dinner.

I am left with the memory of Peter Pan's nemesis, Captain Hook. His right hand was eaten by a giant crocodile, who also ate a ticking clock.

Tick tock, tick tock. Hook always had the warning of impending doom. We've had the warning. Shows like 20/20 ignore their duty to do what the FDA and USDA have also ignored. By protecting the cattle industry, they betray people who may eat that ticking time bomb for their next meal.

Go on to What's Wrong With Genetic Engineering?
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