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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Mad Cow USA
The first apparent case of mad cow disease in the United States has been discovered, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday. -- CNN.

The book Mad Cow USA is available as a free download from the fine folks at PR Watch. I read it a year or two ago. Just one more reason to be a vegetarian.

I'm probably a total jerk for suggesting it, but this may not be bad news overall. Beef consumption is one of the worst things you can do to the planet (along with driving the SUV to McDonalds to buy it), and anything that scares people off from eating beef takes pressure off of the world food supply and the rainforests. Hopefully no humans get infected and not many animals either. Some herds may be pre-emptively slaughtered for protection, but most cattle don't (doesn't?) have long happy lives ahead of them anyway, with an appointment at a slaughterhouse already made. The capitalists whose stock will drop are some of the worst around: Tyson Foods (which owns IBP, the leading beef producer in the country, if I remember my facts correctly), McDonalds, and a bunch of obnoxious J. R. Ewing types down in Texas who gave megabucks to every Bush campaign. Unfortunately, the workers whose jobs are at risk are some of the most vulnerable, especially slaughterhouse employees. (See Fast Food Nation for some of the horror stories.) But I believe that cattle ranching is one of the least labor-intensive enterprises in agriculture, so if beef gets replaced by non-meat foods in a lot of people's diets, it might actually improve the employment situation.