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It's the Cow Feed, Stupid!
Published on Wednesday, December 31, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
It's the Cow Feed, Stupid!
by John Stauber
 

The USDA's much ballyhooed new measures to address the emergence of mad cow disease in the US are wholly inadequate. Until there is a complete and total ban on all feeding of slaughterhouse waste to livestock, coupled with the testing of millions of animals, mad cow disease will continue to amplifying and spread in US animal feed and among livestock. Eventually we will see cases of human mad cow disease emerging. It was a decade after the recognition of the first mad cow in Britain that the human deaths, continuing today, began appearing.

We know now that in the US the so called "firewall," the FDA's 1997 feed regulation misnamed a "feed ban," has been woefully ineffective, a farce. Sheldon Rampton and I exposed this in our 1997 book, Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?

We waited to see what the FDA would do before we concluded our book in the fall of 1997. The FDA wrote feed regulations that allowed the livestock and animal feed industry to continue their dangerous practices that are spreading mad cow disease in North America.

The USDA knew way back in 1991, more than a decade ago, that a feed ban was necessary to protect human and animal health, but sided with the livestock industry. In a 1991 report I obtained under the Freedom of Information Act USDA said, "the advantage of this option is that it minimizes the risk of BSE. The disadvantage is that the cost to the livestock and rendering industries would be substantial." (Mad Cow USA, p. 149-150)

The 1997 FDA feed regulation is not a feed ban, but a labeling requirement that meat and bone meal from cattle and other ruminants be labeled 'do not feed to ruminants.' (MCUSA, p. 215-218) Government investigators have found that this rule has been widely ignored and poorly enforced. Without offering proof, USDA officials now say there is 99% compliance with this rule.

However, even if that were true, it would mean little since farmers, ranchers and cattle producers can buy properly labeled feed and still feed it to cattle. There is no on-farm inspection of how even properly labeled feed is actually used, and such inspection is impossible.

As long as billions of pounds of rendered slaughterhouse waste are being fed to livestock, labeling regulations and the sort of partial requirements that USDA announced December 30, 2003, will not stop mad cow disease from spreading.

The 1997 feed labeling regulation is so bad that it even allows animals known to be infected with mad cow and similar diseases to be rendered into animal feed, despite the fact that the World Health Organization has urged for a decade that no infected animals be fed to animals or people.

Researchers have long shown that blood can transmit mad cow type diseases, yet under the 1997 labeling regulations massive amounts of cattle blood are today being fed to calves in milk replacer, calf starter and feed supplements. Government and industry sources are telling reporters that it is safe to feed cattle blood to calves and cattle, yet Dr. Stanley Prusiner, the Nobel-prize wining mad cow researcher, says that feeding cattle blood to calves is "stupid."

Why was cattle blood exempted from the 1997 FDA regulation? The politically powerful dairy industry wanted cheap blood protein in milk formula for weaning calves. The 1997 FDA regulations were written for industry, not to protect human or animal health.

Also, under the 1997 FDA regulations, all parts of cattle are rendered and fed to pigs and poultry, which are rendered and all parts are fed back to themselves and to cattle. This feeding loop can spread and amplify mad cow disease, and even create and spread new, never before seen, strains of the disease.

Unless and until the US follows the lead of the EU nations by implementing a total ban on byproduct feeding, along with testing millions of animals, the mad cow crisis will only worsen with time.

In January, 1997, FDA projected that with no feed ban in place, the appearance of a single mad cow in the US would mean that over the next 11 years at least 299,000 additional mad cows cases would emerge, because of the spread of the disease via infected feed and the long invisible latency period in cattle. These 299,000 case would occur even if an airtight, mandatory feed ban were put in place immediately after the appearance of the first mad cow in the US. (MCUSA, page 211-212)

Clearly, there is no effective livestock feed ban currently in place in the US, and USDA and FDA have absolutely no plans to put one in place. The so-called "firewall feed ban" of 1997 is a farce, an ineffective labeling requirement and nothing more.

The powerful livestock and animal feed industries continue to call the shots at FDA and USDA. Apparently they believe that their current crisis management PR campaign will fool the US news media and US consumers into thinking that the right steps have all been taken. Apparently they also believe that US trading partners can be bullied into buying US cattle and beef. The longer that this industry and government deception continues, the greater the US mad cow crisis will become. Eventually as in other countries even the US government and the powerful US livestock industry will be forced to adopt the only steps that work: a total ban on feeding rendered byproducts to livestock, and the testing of animals before they are eaten.

Today, however, the spin and obfuscation continues.

John Stauber is the Executive Director of the Center for Media & Democracy and the Co-Author of: 'Toxic Sludge Is Good For You', 'Mad Cow USA', 'Trust Us, We're Experts', 'Weapons of Mass Deception', and the upcoming (June, 2004) 'Banana Republicans'

A free and complete copy of "Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?" Can be downloaded at: http://www.prwatch.org/books/madcow.html

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