- The US government's elaborate cover-up of mad cow dangers
in the United States has begun to unravel. Twenty-four hours after our
successful protest with Organic Consumers Association of a US Department
of Agriculture mad cow safety stunt in St. Paul, USDA Secretary Johanns
was forced to admit that a cow tested last year and declared safe in fact
DID have mad cow disease.
- I've often charged that the USDA is hiding US cases of
mad cow by using the wrong testing procedures and by failing to conduct
food safety tests on millions of animals and this announcement proves it.
USDA finally used the correct test - the Western Blot test - on this suspect
animal and it has proven to be a case of mad cow disease.
- Here at the Center for Media and Democracy we will continue
to work hard on this issue until the US goes beyond lip-service and does
what the EU countries and Japan have done: implement a science-based food-safety
testing program that tests millions of cattle a year. And, the US must
put in place a REAL "fire-wall feed ban" that would stop the
current feeding of billions of pounds of blood, meat, bone meal, animal
fat and poultry feces to cattle in the US. These on-going feed practices
amplify and spread mad cow disease.
- The US news media has mostly failed to expose mad cow
risks in the US. Instead, as with so many other issues, the corporate media
has become an echo chamber for industry and government, confusing the public
into thinking that the correct steps have been taken. The June 12 New
York Times contains two relevant articles that I'll use to make my point.
- The New York Times article on mad cow disease refers
(without mentioning names of us and other critics) to ongoing condemnation
of US policies, something that Sheldon Rampton and I began in 1997 with
our prescient book Mad Cow USA. Our book correctly predicted that mad cow
disease would appear here because rather than take the steps necessary
to stop it, government and industry were (and are) merely misleading the
media and the public with spin and deception. The New York Times could
and should run a front page expose' revealing the gross failures of US
animal feeding and testing policies and the ongoing risks they pose to
both the US food and blood supply. But instead this New York Times article
makes it sound like the USDA is behaving responsibly rather than engaging
in an ongoing cover-up.
- The second New York Times article looks at lobbyist Rick
Berman's PR front groups. Rick Berman fuels his pro-industry activism with
millions of dollars from the food, booze and tobacco industries]. His major
websites are Activist Cash and Consumer Freedom. The New York Times used
our SourceWatch website to research Berman and cites our exclusive report
on his funding sources.
- Berman's front group has smeared and attacked us for
years, as in this December 2003 news release: "Reckless activists
including John Stauber are already using the USDA's mad-cow disease announcement
as a hook to create panic over America's food supply. Minutes after USDA
Secretary Ann Veneman's Tuesday news conference, Stauber declared on CNN:
'My presumption is that mad cow disease is spread throughout North America
... There are more cases. No doubt about it.' "
- At least Berman quoted me correctly. Typically his information
is riddled with factual errors and out-of-context quotes but this time
he got it right.
- John Stauber works for the Center for Media and Democracy,
a nonprofit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the co-author
of Mad Cow USA.