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In the Vegetarian & Vegan News...
   Opinion | VegSource Interactive, Inc.

US Meat Industry's Dishonesty and Disregard for Consumer Most Evident Today
editorial by Jeff Nelson
President VegSource Interactive, Inc.

Today the cattle industry begins embracing Howard Lyman's 1996 food-safety recommendations -- the same ones they're still suing him about.

January 26, 2001

Over four years ago, in a suit widely-supported by meat industry powers, Howard Lyman was sued because he called for a change in the meat industry practice of feeding rendered ruminants to their herds. By then it had been learned that feeding cows to cows in England had most likely been responsible for the appearance of BSE ("Mad Cow disease") in the UK.

Lyman reasoned that the then prevalent practice of feeding rendered animal proteins to cattle in the US -- unless stopped -- could also lead to a major outbreak of Mad Cow in the United States. (A year later, the US government placed a ban on this practice.)

In response to Lyman's valid concerns, the meat industry, instead of acting on the problems Lyman exposed, spent millions suing Lyman and Oprah. The meat industry claimed Lyman had "disparaged" beef when he stated his opinion that American beef might not be as safe as it could and should be.

The apparent object of the cattlemen's suit was to shut Oprah and Lyman up. They probably also wanted to send a message to other activists who might call for more safety measures to prevent Mad Cow -- open your mouth and you too will be dragged to Texas and subjected to a frivolous lawsuit. (Of course, Lyman and Oprah won the bogus suit and beat the bad guys based on a little detail called the First Amendment.)

Fast-forward almost five years later to January 2001: Europe's meat industry is in the tank as Mad Cow appears in the herds of numerous countries where local meat industry experts had recently assured their citizens "it can't happen here."

And what is the US meat industry saying today? After spending money on PR campaigns assuring the public "it can't happen here," they sound a lot like Howard Lyman, calling for the very same kinds of regulations which Lyman wanted to implement nearly 5 years ago.

And to underscore the mendacity of the meat industry, there is STILL yet another lawsuit currently pending against Howard Lyman and Oprah from the same group of meat-producers in Texas.


What this shows most clearly to me is that the meat industry doesn't really give a damn about the health of the US consumer.

If they did, why would they have fought so long and hard to deny any problem exists and vehemently refused to listen to anyone who urged stricter safety measures -- measures they are today finally embracing? Why do they continue to press their ill-fated frivolous lawsuits against Lyman and Oprah, and continue to harass and try to stifle the speech of these and other food-safety activists?

The obvious answer would appear to be that like the tobacco industry, it is their bottom line -- and not the health of the consumer -- which is all that concerns them.

Funny how times have changed. Suddenly in 2001, Lyman's opinions and recommendations from 1996 -- imploring the meat industry to get serious about preventing Mad Cow disease in America -- seem to make sense to the meat industry. When they see McDonald's profits nose-diving into the mud, and witness new PR disasters engulfing meat industries in new countries every week, only then do they take notice. The subject of their prior and current litigation becomes their cause du jour.

Here is a quote from an editorial which appears today on a meat-industry website:

The escalation of BSE outbreaks and protests and boycotts across Europe has been the equivalent of throwing gasoline on the fires of outrage such groups as the Consumer's Union and the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine love to keep brightly burning.

What's industry's next move?

Well, there is an industry meeting of U.S. feed industry, rendering industry and regulatory officials scheduled for this Monday, Jan. 29, in Washington, D.C. The purpose, according to Chuck Schroeder, CEO of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which is coordinating the meeting, is to discuss “the need for absolute vigilance” regarding the threat of BSE in the United States and the potential flashpoints that exist in the preventive system jointly maintained by industry and government.

“We have no tolerance for any slippage in compliance of those regulations,” Schroeder has stated. I totally agree.

The meat industry needs a show of force at that meeting, to insist that FDA increase its inspection, its enforcement and perhaps the penalties it can levy for noncompliance in any of the key areas listed above.

Yeehaa! Now that Mad Cow disease is threatening the bottom line of the US cattlemen, now that the US government has quarantined Texas cattle possibly exposed to BSE, the cattle industry is finally ready to "take serious steps" to try to prevent the appearance and spread of Mad Cow here.

Unfortunately, at this point they may be shutting the barn door after the [mad] cow has escaped.




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