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From 19 June 2005 Issue

Another Mad Cow in the United States?
By Greg Lawson - Parkstranger@aol.com 

Are there more mentally challenged cows among us? Many researchers think so, and many also believe that there is a government conspiracy to cover up the extent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in our country. A downer cow (or is that a vertically challenged bovine?) from an undisclosed US state tested positive for mad cow disease last November, but the US Department of Agriculture resisted retesting the animal. The animal had initially tested positive twice on what are known as rapid tests, but negative on another type of test called immunohistochemistry.

Last November, a watchdog group, Consumers Union, asked the USDA to run another type of test called a Western Blot test and to send brain samples to a respected lab in Weybridge, England. The USDA replied that it had no intention of taking either action. The agency waited seven months to take further action until the USDAís Office of the Inspector General requested that the USDA retest using the Western Blot test. The agency hasnít released the results of that test but they have sent brain samples to the International BSE Laboratory in Weybridge. It will be another week or so until the lab in England reports their results.

Eighteen months ago the Bush administration promised to end the practice of feeding American cattle chicken litter, cattle blood and restaurant leftovers in order to strengthen defenses against the transmission of mad cow disease. No action has been taken. Cattle continue to be fed chicken droppings, cattle blood and slaughterhouse waste.

Another tactic that would make the US meat supply safer, the labeling of meat packages with country of origin information, suffered a setback last Monday when the US Agricultural Appropriations Committee voted to not fund the USDA to write final rules for meat labeling. Country of origin labeling was first approved in the 2002 farm bill and was supposed to take effect in 2004. Under pressure from meat producer lobbyists, Congress voted to delay funding for the program until September 2006. The Bush administration wants to repeal labeling for meat altogether.

Although the stock market reported a drop in cattle futures last Monday, by Tuesday the market had almost completely recovered. People just donít seem to be that concerned about mad cow disease, or any of the other meat pathogens that kill thousands in our country each year.

Do you trust the meat industry and the federal government to ensure the safety of meat? As for me, I am glad my veggie-burgers are clearly labeled with the place of origin and that there has not been the discovery of a single mad soybean.

Go on to The SPCA of Texas: A Volunteer's Perspective
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