Indigo Insights

Sunday, December 28, 2003

I'm back from Christmas vacation - but still recuperating. My friend, Doc Farmer, sent this to me and he's going to be my Guest Blogger today. Thank goodness he came through 'cause there's no way I'll be sitting here very long.

Posted by Doc Farmer
Monday, December 29, 2003


One cow!

One sick cow is all it takes to make the media go nuts on a slow news day.

Remember when three tainted grapes decimated fruit imports for over a year? Remember alar messing up the apple industry? The other day, I made a stir-fry, and my Father asked me if the green onions were safe (following the bug at a Tex-Mex restaurant in Ohio).

Well, now the U.S. has to deal with what the UK lived with some years back: Mad Cow Disease. The official name is BSE, or Bovine Spongeform Encepalopathy. A disease which apparently transmitted from a brain wasting disease that jumped from ovine to bovine through the use of contaminated feed (bovine feed contaminated by ground up ovines, no less!). Some believe the disease can be transmitted to humans in the form of CJD, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. I’ve yet to find a definitive causal link to that, but this won’t stop the ''expert'' talking heads on the various news networks from stating that there’s an A – B correlation.

When the disease first hit the UK, I remember the prophets of doom (see also: mainstream media ''experts'') who were putting the projected death tolls up in the hundreds of thousands. People stopped eating beef, even though any potential infections would have already occurred (BSE and CJD both have a long incubation period). Farmers were ruined, the government paid pennies on the pound (sterling, not lb.) for cattle, and the industry virtually went bust. Many farmers in England ended up French-kissing a shotgun. The Krauts and the Frogs and most of Europe banned British Beef, and complained vociferously about the appalling safety record in the UK. Not mentioning, of course, that many of these same governments were actually lying through their teeth about their own BSE problem, and exporting live infected cattle to the UK.

In the end, fewer than 200 people (out of some 60 million) died from CJD in England. More than that died from BSE-related suicide. More than that probably died from choking on a burger, for that matter.

All because the media decided to whip up a frenzy to sell papers, ad space and commercial time.

Here are some things the US government should and should not do to handle this non-crisis:

* Don’t stuff a hamburger in your face (or your young children’s either) at every photo opportunity. They did this in the UK, and ended up looking really stupid.

* Don’t start coming up with idiotic tracking systems and regulatory bumpf.

* Do publish all the information available on BSE and CJD through the Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control. All of the data. If there really is a causal link, let people find it there.

* Do repeat, as many times as possible, that the illness of a single cow is not a cause for panic in the streets, stock exchanges, or cattle futures markets.

* Do repeat, as many times as possible, that the US government is NOT responsible for this situation. Nor is Saddam Hussein, Usama bin Laden, or Kim Jong Il. However, I wouldn’t put this past Jacques Chiraq.

* Don’t waste time on this disease as a matter of national security or economic stability.

* Don’t bail out the cattle industry. Unless you discover that the cattle are flying on airliners, of course.

* Do find the idiot that decided to feed cattle to cattle (or sheep to cattle) and slap them repeatedly with a haddock. Last I heard, cattle and sheep are vegetarians. Not cannibals.

For you folks out there, here’s some information that you may find useful. First, remember that you can only get infected with this disease if you eat the brain or spinal column of an infected cow. Why anybody would want to do that is beyond me. Second, remember that this is not a virus or bacteria. It’s a prion (you look it up) and it can’t be passed around like the flu. Third, remember that beef is safe – you eat the muscle when you’re having a burger or a steak, and there’s no evidence to suggest (in my research, at least) that you could possibly catch BSE/CJD this way. Fourth, tell the PETA-pests, Militant Vegans and wacko lib/dem/soc/commies to just shut the heck up. Fifth, if you’re on the Atkins diet, you’re grocery bill just got a break. Sixth, there’s no need to immediately switch from beef to chicken, pork (the other white meat), sea bass (the other yellow meat), or WWII surplus hot dogs (the other green meat).

I think part of the problem with this situation was the timing. Think about it. If they had found out about this cow on the day after Saddam was found in a rat hole outside Tikrit, you’d never had heard about it. If it had happened when the media decided that Dubya said or did something stupid, a sick cow would’ve been ignored. If it were Easter time and an outbreak of myxomatosis were discovered in six-foot-tall bunnies, the moo flu would have gone past unnoticed.

At least one positive thing is coming out of this manufactured crisis. It’s reviving an interest in Clara Peller ("where's the beef?")...

Actually, you’d expect the media to have a close relation to the beef industry. Considering all of the male bovine excrement that both groups produce....