Late Friday, June 24, is a perfect time to bury bad news in Washington, DC. That’s when Mike Johanns, the United States Secretary of Agriculture held a news conference. He announced that a beef cow suspected last November to be positive with mad cow disease, and finally properly tested, was indeed positive.
Even now the USDA is keeping secret which state the cow was from, but Texas has long been mentioned in media articles.
The initially-botched finding of a second mad cow in the United States emphasizes the failure of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to protect Americans from the deadly dementia called mad cow disease, the subject of my 1997 book with Sheldon Rampton, Mad Cow USA.
The so-called ‘firewall feed ban’ to prevent cattle from contracting the disease in the United States is a joke, and more like pouring gasoline on a fire. Hundreds of millions of pounds of cattle blood, cattle fat, and the meat, blood, fat and bone meal from pigs and chickens are legally fed to cattle each year on US farms and ranches and feedlots. American cattle are also being fed a million tons a year of chicken litter and feces contaminated with cattle meat and bone meal. These are practices that can spread mad cow disease and are banned in countries like England and Japan where there is a real firewall feed ban.
The US mad cow testing system seems designed to cover up mad cow disease rather than find it. Other countries test most or all of their cattle before human consumption for food safety purposes. The United States tests a small percentage of the 36 million cattle a year slaughtered and put into the human and animal feed chain.
Most animals infected with mad cow disease will look healthy and be slaughtered and put into the food system without testing. Only testing millions of US cattle a year will reveal how much mad cow disease there really is in the United States.
Britain has announced two cases of human man cow disease spread through blood transfusions, and the US is risking the loss of its own blood supply by not taking the measures Britain and other countries have taken to prevent the disease.
It is long over due for the US to stop its cover-up and denial of mad cow disease and put in place the real firewall feed ban that is working in Britain and other countries. We must have a total ban on feeding any animal protein to livestock, coupled with a mad cow testing program that tests all animals before consumption.
Anything short of these proven measures is scientifically unsound and threatens both the human food supply and the blood supply in the United States. Unfortunately, the US Department of Agriculture is continuing to lie and deny about mad cow risks in the United States, while allowing the powerful livestock and animal feed lobby to continue turning their bloody slaughter house waste into supplemental feed for cattle.
JOHN STAUBER is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin. With Sheldon Rampton he is the author of five books including Banana Republicans, Weapons of Mass Deception and Mad Cow USA