Canadian Mad Cows Come to Your Table

Small chance you’ll go nuts, so don’t worry

Inebriated Press
November 23, 2007

The U.S. lifted its ban on old Canadian cows this week having decided that getting mad cow disease isn’t that big a deal.  The U.S. closed its border to all Canadian cattle in 2003 after an outbreak of mad cow disease in that country.  In 2005 we okayed young Canadian cattle because of new precautions in Canada that makes them less likely to have the illness.  The U.S. decided this week that we were discriminating against the old cows and they should be allowed to come to the U.S. too.  Not everyone is happy about the decision.

“The risk is still very real — in the event that we import an infected animal — our industry is vulnerable to tremendous financial harm as a result of this rule,” said Bill Bullard, chief executive officer of R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America, a cattlemen’s group that has been fighting it.  “And money is the name of the game here.”

Financial gain or loss seems to be the prevailing decision-maker nowadays as U.S. ranchers fear a consumer who goes nuts might cause other meat buyers to turn away from beef altogether, while U.S. beef companies want access to supplies of cheap Canadian meat so they can ‘beef up’ their profits.  So far the U.S. government has been playing to the financial side while giving lip service to the health issue.

“The risk of going nuts from contracting mad cow disease isn’t very high but the price of meat has been going up,” said Chuck Conner, USDA acting secretary pretending to be both the Secretary of Ag and someone who cares.  “So it’s more important to lower meat prices with imports than worry about some Americans going berserk from mad cow disease.  Besides, with the presidential candidates all acting the way they are, who can tell if ‘mad cow’ is rampant here or not anyway?  Mad cow disease is really no big deal.”

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad-cow disease, is a fatal, neurodegenerative disease in cattle that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord. BSE has a long incubation period, about 4 years, usually affecting adult cattle at a peak age onset of four to five years, all breeds being equally susceptible. It is believed, but not proven, that the disease may be transmitted to human beings who eat infected carcasses. In humans, it is known as new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD or nvCJD), and by June 2007, it had killed 165 people in Britain, and six elsewhere with the number expected to rise because of the disease’s long incubation period. Between 460,000 and 482,000 BSE-infected animals had entered the human food chain before controls on high-risk offal were introduced in 1989.  Once contracted by humans, vCJD is fatal and cannot be cured.

In related news, the U.S. continues to inspect only 1 percent of all the food it imports because we trust foreign governments to look after our interests.  The new motto of the U.S. Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is now “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

© 2007

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