Feeding Cows to Cows, One Year Later

An alarming, but not surprising, investigation in today's Vancouver Sun illustrates why the mad cow feed rules in both Canada and the US are completely inadequate.

The paper reports that "secret tests on cattle feed conducted by a federal agency earlier this year found more than half contained animal parts not listed in the ingredients, according to internal documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun. The test results raise questions about whether rules banning the feeding of cattle remains to other cattle -- the primary way in which mad cow disease is spread -- are being routinely violated. ... Controlled experiments have shown an animal needs to consume as little as one milligram -- about the size of a grain of sand -- of material contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) to develop the brain-wasting disease."

Sheldon Rampton and I reported in our 1997 book Mad Cow USA how Britain learned a decade ago that nothing less than a total ban on feeding animal by-products to livestock can stop the spread of mad cow disease. Canada and the US are still legally feeding billions of pounds a year to cattle as fat and protein supplement. As the Vancouver Sun article reveals, even feed marked as "vegetable" is contaminated with animal byproducts.

December 23, 2004, is the first anniversary of the announcement of the US mad cow. Since then the few steps taken by the US government have been completely inadequate, even though the USDA's own expert panel concluded last February that mad cow disease has been spreading and amplifying in US feed for many years.

The weaning of calves on cattle blood remains legal and widespread. Cattle blood and fat are fed legally to cattle. Cattle are legally fed to pigs and chickens which are in turn legally fed back to cattle. The USDA will sue any company privately testing for mad cow disease. The USDA's own testing program is inadequate and has no transparency. The recent announcement that a suspect cow was eventually found negative has not been confirmed or verified outside of the USDA and therefore should not be trusted.

One year after the US mad cow, the crisis continues while industry and government attempt to sweep it under the rug.