Little done to stem mad cow disease
Mad cows are in the U.S. food supply. "The risk is extremely low," drone beef industry spokespersons and their captive regulators. Behind that bland reassurance lies a systematic effort to avoid bringing the truth to light. Motto: don't look, don't find. Consider:
* Only a small percentage of cattle are tested for mad cow disease, even those with symptoms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) claims to test 20,000 cows a year but can't even document that measly number.
* Industry-funded and government "experts" constantly claim that pigs and chickens aren't susceptible to mad cow despite experiments that induced it in pigs.
* No studies have shown that people cannot catch the infectious mad cow agent from pigs and chickens. Some studies do suggest a link between CJD, a human brain-wasting disease, and consumption of pork and certain other meats or cheese.
* Claims that only 150 people have contracted mad cow disease rely on the assumption that it can be distinguished from CJD. Experiments cast doubt on that assumption.
* No one knows how many cases of CJD there are, and whether the number has risen. Paul Brown, medical director of the National Institutes of Health, declared: "No one has looked for CJD systematically in the U.S."
* Autopsy studies have shown that from 1% to 13% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease have CJD. The incidence of Alzheimer's has exploded in the last 20 years, afflicting four million, to become the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S.
DEATHS FROM MAD COW DISEASE
How many people have already died from mad cow disease? The only honest answer is: No one knows.
Don't hold your breath waiting for an honest answer. USDA has put together a committee "to review our investigation and make national recommendations." The first appointee named is William Hueston, who was paid to testify against Oprah Winfrey in the 1998 "food disparagement" lawsuit brought by the beef industry after Oprah swore off hamburgers on TV, having heard her guest Howard Lyman discuss the probability of a mad cow outbreak.
The paltry new regulations announced so far by USDA hardly inspire confidence, especially if they are as little enforced as existing ones. The real tale is told by the sickening practices of the modern factory farming system, such as feeding cow blood to calves instead of milk--a practice still allowed under the new rules.
MORE PRODUCTION NO MATTER WHAT
The factory farming system is shaped by capitalism's drive to produce more and more, with complete disregard for the consequences. Turned into machines for producing meat, milk and eggs, factory-farm animals are crowded together in horrendous conditions, drugged, genetically engineered, and fed sawdust, manure (spreading E. Coli) and animal parts.
The crowded conditions are ideal for breeding diseases: 60% of chicken at supermarkets has salmonella bacteria. To keep the animals alive and producing, they are treated with antibiotics and pesticides. Humans eat the toxic residue, while drug-resistant bacteria breed in the animals. Almost half the antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to poultry, cattle, pigs and fish.
Meat industry spokespersons proclaim with a straight face that mad cow disease is negligible compared to other food-borne illnesses, since each year thousands of people in the U.S. are killed and millions sickened by bacteria in meat and other foods. This same industry has fought hard to slash inspections of meat for all these kinds of disease.
USDA considered a number of precautionary measures against mad cow as far back as 1991, but "the cost to the livestock and rendering industries would be substantial." Feeding cattle remains to farm animals can be 20% cheaper than plant sources of protein.
Disease is an unintended but inevitable consequence of a system that disrupts natural cycles, subordinating everything to the drive for ever-expanding production.
The human toll taken by an industry producing food is a reflection of the upside-down nature of capitalist society, where the process of production is the master of humanity, rather than the other way around. While we're fighting factory farms, let's recognize the need for a radical reorganization of society that makes production subordinate to ecological health and human development.
Published by News and Letters Committees