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2003-12-24

Mad Cow in Washington: First Case of Dreaded Disease Detected in U.S.

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Mad cow disease was detected in the United States for the first time ever when a cow slaughtered in Washington state earlier this month tested positive for BSE. We speak with John Stauber author of Mad Cow USA and Howard Lyman a former cattle rancher-turned-vegetarian and food safety activist.

A cow slaughtered in Washington state earlier this month had tested positive for BSE, better known as mad cow disease, Agriculture Department officials announced yesterday. The discovery marks the first time the dreaded illness has been detected in the United States.

Meat from the infected animal traveled through three separate processing plants before a test revealed the problem 13 days later.

Japan, the largest foreign customer for U.S. beef, announced a temporary halt to U.S. beef imports. South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Russia have also barred beef imports.

Mad cow disease sprang up in Britain in 1986 and spread through countries in Europe and Asia, prompting massive destruction of herds and decimating the European beef industry.

In Britain, at least 143 people have died after contracting a human version of the disease known as vCJD which scientists believe comes from infected beef.

United Press International * reports* that for six months the United States Department of Agriculture repeatedly refused to release its tests for mad cow disease.

Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman insisted any diseased parts from the slaughtered cow were removed before they could enter the food supply. She added "I plan to serve beef for my holiday dinner."

During Britain’s mad cow disease crisis in 1990, then-agriculture minister John Gummer gathered the media to witness him sharing a hamburger with his young daughter.

  • John Stauber, co-founder of PR Watch and co-author of the book, Mad Cow USA: Could The Nightmare Happen Here? (Common Courage Press, 1997) which reveals how mad cow disease has emerged as a result of modern, intensive farming practices.
  • * Howard Lyman*, author of Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth From the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat. A former cattle rancher-turned-vegetarian and food safety activist. In 1996, Lyman revealed, to a national television audience, how the cattle industry potentially exposed Americans to mad cow disease by feeding cows the remains of live animals–including other cows. As a result of his remarks, Lyman was named a co-defendant with Oprah Winfrey in the infamous "veggie libel" case brought by Texas ranchers in Amarillo.

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