Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

December 24, 2003                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #39 Volume 2


CONTENTS


1. Fur "Ranching"
2. "Mad Cow" Disease Hits U.S.A.
A. Meat Recalled
B. Testing of Nonambulatory Animals
C. Slaughter Contention
D. Export & Economics
E. Human Risk
 

1. FUR "RANCHING"
Among the animals raised for food and fiber, are millions of animals "ranched" for fur: http://www.hsus.org/ace/12034  In England, fur "farming" has been banned on moral grounds. Following the release of "The Cat in the Hat" movie in mid-December, the Fund for Animals released a "Seuss-like spoof" on the use of captive-raised animals for fur. The 3-minute video, entitled "There's a Fufanu in My Collar Too!" is a take-off of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas." It can be viewed at: http://www.MoreThanYouDo.com
 
A PETA Santa, joined by activists dressed as a fox, a sheep, and a cow, also urged holiday shoppers not to buy fur, or wool or leather, in the organization's "Save Our Skins" campaign:
http://www.peta.org/news/NewsItem.asp?id=3528
 

2. "MAD COW" DISEASE HITS U.S.A.
A nonambulatory cow sent to slaughter in Washington state on December 9th is suspected to be the first recognized case of "mad cow" disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy: BSE) in the U.S. The Holstein cow, who was about 12-years old, had been used for dairy production on a farm near Yakima, which is now under quarantine {1}. The cow's body was sent from the slaughterplant to Midway Meats to be deboned. It is believed to have then been sent to two other facilities, both in Washington {2}. (Midway Meats was the subject of an ongoing expose' on nonambulatory animals slaughtered for human consumption. See item #4 of: http://tinyurl.com/snh5 and http://www.kirotv.com/news/2724072/detail.html )
 
A. Meat Recalled
According to the Washington state deputy director of agriculture, meat from the cow may have already been eaten {1}. Verns Moses Lake Meats voluntarily recalled 10,410 pounds of raw beef on Dec. 23rd. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) designated the recall a Class II  "due to the extremely low likelihood" that the meat contains the infectious agent responsible for BSE {3}. (FSIS regulations require the parts of the bodies of nonambulatory cattle believed to be most likely to harbor the BSE agent be excluded from the human food supply {2}. [Nonambulatory cattle are considered to be at higher risk for BSE.] However, particles of the excluded tissue have been detected in ground beef, and recent studies suggest prions may occur to a lesser extent in non-excluded tissues {4}.)
 
B. Testing of Nonambulatory Animals
Both the USDA and industry have offered assurances of the safety of the food supply {2, 5}. At a news conference held on December 23rd, USDA officials repeatedly stated that any infectious tissue had been sent to rendering {2}. (According to the Undersecretary of Food Safety, BSE is not known to be transmitted through dairy products. {1}). It was also noted that it is unlikely that the case is related to the recent Canadian BSE case (see item #2: http://tinyurl.com/2slgt ). Both the USDA and industry heralded the case as an indication of the effectiveness of the inspection system {2, 4}. United Press International has been attempting unsuccessfully since July to obtain BSE testing documentation from the USDA. Former USDA veterinarians have expressed doubt about the government's BSE assessment and testing procedures {4}. 20,526 cattle were tested for BSE in 2003 {6}, triple the number from previous years. (The USDA stepped up testing after a 2002 survey found significant noncompliance with BSE regulations) {7}. However, an estimated 130,000-190,000  nonambulatory cattle are slaughtered for food each year, of whom nearly 3/4ths are processed for human food. Even with the increased testing, only 10-15% of nonambulatory animals are being tested for BSE {8}. Gene Bauston of Farm Sanctuary suggested that consumers may be "eating the evidence" of a serious health hazard. A 1998 lawsuit by the organization to force the USDA to ban the use of nonambulatory animals in the human food supply was reinstated on appeal last week {9 (see also item #2 of: http://tinyurl.com/3yuo6 )}. 
 
C. Slaughter Contention
Wary of potential economic impacts, the National Cattlemens Beef Association continues to downplay the risks of nonambulatory cattle {6, 10}. However, following the BSE announcement, the California Cattlemen's Association said it would seek to ban meat from nonambulatory animals in the human food supply {10}. Referring to the defeat earlier this year of the Congressional amendment he'd introduced to mandate such a ban (see item #3: http://tinyurl.com/snh5 ), Representative Gary Ackerman (D - N.Y.) said: "I blame it on greed, greed, greed. The greed of the industry, the greed of the lobbyists and the greed of the members of Congress" {6}. The Humane Society of the U.S. is calling on the USDA to impose an immediate ban on the slaughter of nonambulatory animals for human consumption {8}. Others contend that public health is better served if diseased animals are slaughtered and tested for disease. "If you say we are not going to use any downer cattle, then we are not going to be able to locate the disease," said Clarence Siroky, the Idaho State Veterinarian {10}.
 
D. Export & Economics
More than 2,700 cattle were killed due to Canada's single case of BSE this year which cost the country's $6 billion cattle industry {5} an estimated $1.65 billion, mainly in lost exports {1}. The $93 billion U.S. cattle industry {11} exports about one million tons of beef annually, nearly 12% of its total production {5}. While definitive test results should be available sometime Christmas Day, numerous countries have already banned U.S. beef including: Australia, Japan, Mexico, Russia and South Korea. (Japan and South Korea alone account for 46% of U.S. beef exports.) {12}. Once the case is confirmed, all the animals in the 4,000-cow herd {13} the cow in question came from will be slaughtered so their brains can be tested. Any other existing cattle whom it can be determined the cow came in contact with will also be killed and tested {7}. The U.S. industry has been experiencing the highest prices on record, with beef demand up 10% since 1998. This is largely attributed to the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet craze, such as Atkins and South Beach. Earlier this week, a Washington Post article noted: "The government forecast is for higher beef prices as long as the cattle supply remains low, and as long as fat Americans believe they can get thin by eating beef" {11}. A commentary by Chris Harris, editor of Meat News, on the impact that BSE and other disease outbreaks have had on the global meat industry this year can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/2vjnl
 
E. Human Risk
Fox News reports that the human form of the disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), has claimed the lives of 153 people, with all but 10 in Britain {6}. On December 17th, the first case suspected to have been caused by a blood transfusion was reported by the British government. All blood products for use in operations in Britain are now imported from the U.S., which has no reported cases of vCJD {14}. An outbreak of BSE in the U.S. could potentially dwarf the U.K. situation due to the far greater size of the industry and international distribution of U.S. beef {4}.
 

Thanks go to Terry Watt for the Fox News articles:
1. "U.S. Hit by First Case of Mad Cow," Reuters, Randy Fabi & Richard Cowan, Dec. 24, 2003.
http://www.tinyurl.com/38pyr or http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1072221009258&call_pageid=968332188854&col=968350060724
2. "Transcript of News Conference with Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman on BSE," USDA news release, Dec. 23, 2003.
http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2003/12/0433.htm  See also: http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2003/06/resources.html
3. "Washington Firm Recalls Beef Products Following Presumptive BSE Determination," Food Safety Inspection Service, Dec. 24, 2003.
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/recalls/prelease/pr067-2003.htm
4. "USDA Refused to Release Mad Cow Records," United Press International, Steve Mitchell, December 23, 2003.
http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20031223-103657-3424r
5. "BSE Arrives," Meat News, December 23, 2003.
http://www.meatnews.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&artNum=6699
6. "Mad Cow Found in Washington State," Fox News, December 23, 2003.
http://foxnews.com/story/0,2933,106547,00.html
7. "U.S. Mad Cow Emergency Plan Used in Probe," Fox News, December 23, 2003. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,106563,00.html
8. "The HSUS Demands Ban on Processing Downed Animals for Human Consumption," The Humane Society of the United States, December 24, 2003.
http://www.hsus.org/ace/20208
9. "Mad Cow Case Follows Ruling on Sick Animals," Fox News, December 23, 2003. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,106556,00.html
10. "U.S. Mad Cow Case Turns Attention on 'Downer" Cattle,' Reuters, Jim Christie, December 23, 2003.
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N23321611.htm
11. "Protein Diet Craze, Thin Supply of Cattle Fatten Ranchers' Wallets," The Washington Post, Blaine Harden, December 22, 2003.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20056-2003Dec21.html
12. "Agriculture Secretary: Mad Cow Risk to Humans Extremely Low," CNN, December 24, 2003. http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/12/24/cnna.veneman 
13. "Mad Cow Animal from Dairy Farm - USDA," Reuters, December 24, 2003.
http://tinyurl.com/2ropz or
http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/breaking/breakingnewsarticle.asp?feed=OBR&Date=20031224&ID=3239674
14. "First Mad Cow Deaths via Transfusion Reported," Fox News, December 17, 2003.
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,106065,00.html