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USDA Won’t Discriminate Against Downer Cows

The latest downer cow situation has become surreal for me on several levels. Once again, every response I have makes me feel like an alien, and when this particular topic comes up in conversation I am amazed by what the focus is: people eating meat that might be diseased.

In "USDA Rejects ‘Downer’ Cow Ban" by Christopher Lee in today’s Washington Post, Lee reports that Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer won’t be endorsing a ban on downer cows entering the food supply. This, of course, is after footage of treatment of crippled cows flooded the airwaves.

Let’s deconstruct:

  • He’s the Agriculture Secretary for heaven’s sake! Who in their right mind would expect him to say anything else! Do you really think he’s worried about the cows?
  • Schafer introduced the idea of increasing random inspections against abuse, which by the way he said nothing about other than: "The penalties are strong and swift, as we have shown. . . .  Financially, I don’t see how this company can survive." He’s not worried about the cows; he’s worried about the financial solvency (or not) of the company.
  • Schafer thinks the rules are fine (regarding downers entering the food supply).
  • Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wis) said: "These images exposed wholly unacceptable gaps in American meat inspection systems." Meat inspection? What about hideously, barbaric cruelty inspection?
  • One J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute said . . . wait . . . why don’t you guess? That the footage we’ve all seen is "an anomaly, an extreme circumstance." First of all, he has no idea that’s true. And second, it takes a lot of desensitization, I’d imagine, to find what happens every day at every slaughterhouse acceptable. Which brings me to my real points, of which I have a trifecta . . .

First, I cannot overstate how disturbed I am that the focus is on whether the flesh of crippled, diseased, tortured beings should be in the food supply. The objection here is about the meat being potentially harmful, not about the fact that the cows are subjected to an extra helping of torture. Wayne Pacelle is quoted at the end of the argument, and even his comment is about people.

"We need a rigorous inspections program because reckless behavior by a single company can have national and global implications . . . . How many other crises, recalls and public scares can we tolerate before we adopt an unambiguous policy of combating mad cow in the food supply? . . . We need a bright line on this."

The cows! What about the cows!

Next, I understand why Schafer wouldn’t be for the ban, as he thinks the system of having crippled cows examined by a veterinarian is working fine. After all, he must know what happens to the cows and how they get crippled and why. And he must know how they’re treated even when they don’t become crippled. He must know that the entire system is disgustingly cruel. But that doesn’t concern him. What concerns him is the bottom line of animal agriculture: profit.

Finally, from the industry’s point of view, once you open the door to not slaughtering downer cows for food, what’s next? You can see why they’d be against banning the sale of crippled-cow flesh for human consumption. 

What I don’t understand is the outrage over the treatment of the downed cows rather than how they got crippled in the first place? That’s the real tragedy.   

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    Seems we have our work cut out for us. First, we'll have to educate Wayne Pacelle. But then again, maybe we should resign ourselves to the fact that Pacelle and HSUS cannot be educated any more than Ed Schafer and the USDA can.

    One thing that would help the animals is thousands, or better yet, millions, of humans getting and dying from Mad Ape disease from eating the Mad Cows. The interesting thing is that the disease may just creep up on humanity in the millions due to the long dormant period before symptoms show; that is, if or when it hits, it'll probably hit like a nuclear bomb – our self-centered ape-species won't know what hit us. I don't believe in karma andy more than I believe in god or the easter bunny or the pink elephant, but boy, such a disease would be a classic case of the notion of karma.

    February 29, 2008

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