Monday, June 27, 2005

Cartoon #194: “Mad Cow”

Title: Mad Cow; Text: 2003: Americans have nothing to fear from mad cow disease... 2005: 2003: Americans have nothing to fear from mad cow disease...

The second case of mad cow disease was confirmed in U.S. on June 24, 2005, as a result of a fourth test that reversed three earlier test results. In December 2003, the United State’s first publicly reported case of mad cow disease was discovered in Washington state. That cow, we were eventually told, was from Canada. (Whew—thank the lord for smiting Canadians instead of us!)

This time, however, the meat that tested positive was from Texas, the big ol’ buckle on the Bible belt. Most of the news media, as usual, quickly told everyone that none of the bad beef was thought to be in the food supply. How reassuring.

True or not, mad cows are always reported to be of no danger to the public. That is because humans who eat infected beef can develop a variant of the brain-wasting mad cow disease known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Such comforting journalism about mad cows goes back at least to the British outbreaks of 1996 and 1998.

We were told back then that the British cases were not a precurser of things to come for U.S. cattle. Yet, here we are.

The June 2005 finding did further damage to the cattle industry, and supposedly triggered changes in testing. Let’s hope the new tests are better than the old ones. This second cow, found in November as a “downer cow” that couldn't walk, was at first tagged as high risk. Three tests later (yes, three) it was decided the cow did not have the disease. A fourth test reversed that finding. So much for tests.

Maybe we could call the new tests “No Cow Left Behind.”

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