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Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005 10:57 pm

The continuing madness

Ag secretary mindlessly plugs beef despite mad-cow scare

You've probably never heard of Mike Johanns, but he could make you deathly sick. Johanns was a Nebraska politico who was plucked from obscurity by corporate agribusiness early this year to be the U.S. secretary of agriculture. Apparently his chief duty there is to serve the corporate interests. Take mad-cow disease. Anyone who contracts the human form of this plague by unwittingly eating diseased beef gets a gruesome death sentence. Yet the big beef processors and their political puppets keep pretending it’s no problem. First they denied that the cow disease existed. Then they denied that human beings could get it, then they denied that the disease could ever exist in America, and then — when all of the above miraculously turned out to be wrong — they insisted that our agriculture officials were protecting us. Some protection. Mad-cow disease exists because, in order to fatten cattle quickly, industry turns these natural vegetarians into cannibals, feeding them the tissue, bones, brains, blood, spinal cords, and whatnot from other cows. It messes them up something awful. OK, sighed our so-called protectors, we’ll stop allowing certain cow parts to be fed to cows. But they still allow cattle blood to be fed to calves as a milk substitute, and industrial cattle still are fed chicken-coop waste, which includes cow materials. In addition to these “legal” loopholes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects only about 1 percent of the cattle slaughtered all across America. Rather than plug the loopholes, Johanns mindlessly plugs beef. When a mad-cow case was found in June, he announced at a press conference that he’d just had beef for lunch, so, see, all was OK. Apparently not all of the madness is in the cows. To fight the madness, contact the Organic Consumers Association at www.organicconsumers.org.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.

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