Where's an ethical-and health-conscious person supposed to do their grocery shopping these days?
Despite the assurances of federal meat inspectors about the relative safety concerning mad cow's disease, grumblings from industry watchdogs make the USDA's "vigilance" a little hard to swallow.
Simon Chaitowitz of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine tells us that three years ago they submitted a list of recommendations to the feds with an aim toward safeguarding American cattle from mad cow disease.
Not a single one of those recommendations have been implemented. Why?
"We believe the USDA has not instituted these protections because many of its top staffers come from the meat and dairy industries, and they care more about protecting cattle industry profits than public safety," Chaitowitz says.
For example, Dale Moore, chief of staff under Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, used to be the executive director of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
John Stauber, co-author of the book "Mad Cow USA" and executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, says the USDA's latest steps in dealing with the cattle ailment are pathetic.
"The U.S. government is repeating the mistakes Britain made 15 years ago. The British have since defeated mad cow disease with a total ban on feeding slaughterhouse waste to livestock and (the) testing millions of cattle before consumption," Stauber says.
This is what the United States must do. But, Stauber says, the political will to confront the meat industry is lacking.
"Today in the U.S., farmers legally feed billions of pounds of slaughterhouse waste to cattle, and even wean calves on cattle blood protein."
Of course, to level with consumers about this you run the risk of being sued for the crime of "food disparagement," as former cattle rancher Howard Lyman and Oprah Winfrey found out when Oprah featured Lyman's book, "Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat," on her popular television talk show.
But unless you are growing and picking your own veggies, vegetarianism doesn't offer much of a respite from this sorry state of affairs.
Many of the fruits and vegetables delightfully displayed in our supermarkets were picked by immigrant laborers working under awful conditions.
Isn't it amazing how in the debate over Bush's new immigration law proposal, analysts tells us that there are 8 million to 10 million illegal immigrants working in America because there are so many jobs that Americans are unwilling to fill.
Nobody seems to be asking why Americans don't want these jobs. Could it be that they don't pay well enough? Or that the working conditions are unacceptable?
Does the president's apparent willingness to extend amnesty to illegal immigrants signal that our current leadership would rather accept the corporate status quo rather than make those jobs more appealing to Americans?
And what ever happened to NAFTA, which we were told would help countries like Mexico raise its standard of living while stemming the tide of immigrants looking to make a living?
Last week, we signed on to the Central America Free Trade Agreement, which among other things provides patent protection for pharmaceutical companies.
So even as we gloat over having beaten the British to Mars, we might learn a thing or two from Europe about living more sustainable lives here on planet Earth?
Sarah Anderson at the Institute for Policy Studies points out that "the European Union offers its citizens the right to work and live anywhere they want, while mitigating migration pressures through substantial development aid. The U.S. government has rejected proposals to include aid or migration policies in (NAFTA) and other such deals."
When are we going to start "mitigating migration pressures" by helping poorer countries truly develop, as opposed to simply demanding they open up their markets for corporate plunderers?
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and a syndicated columnist.
Copyright © Cape Cod Times.