Monday, March 10, 2008

"Humane Society Sues USDA over mad-cow safety rules"

“Humane Society Sues USDA over mad-cow safety rules”

Ilan Brat et al., Wall Street Journal (Feb. 28, 2008) (subscription required)

The Humane Society filed suit last week against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over a purported loophole in regulations meant to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Under USDA regulations, “downer cattle” that cannot stand or walk on their own are generally prohibited from entering the human food supply because inability to walk is a symptom of BSE. But in July 2007, USDA issued a regulatory exception to that rule, allowing federal veterinarians to determine case-by-case whether to permit non-ambulatory cattle that become injured following an initial inspection.

“It’s an inconsistent policy in the sense that the timing of the animal going down is irrelevant in terms of the food-safety or animal-health issues,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society. USDA declined comment on the pending litigation. According to Ron DeHaven, chief executive of the American Veterinary Medical Association and former administrator of animal testing at USDA, three main safeguards protect humans from eating BSE-infected meat, which can lead to a fatal brain affliction. First, hundreds of thousands of high risk cattle have been tested by USDA since 2003 (with only one in a million diagnosed with BSE); second, USDA generally prohibits downer cattle; third, USDA prohibits feed containing brain, spinal-cord tissue and other parts that could contain BSE. Immediately prior to filing suit, the Humane Society released a video showing workers at a meat plant in California processing downer cattle for human consumption; the video prompted the recall of 143 million pounds of beef.

[The complaint by the Humane Society filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is available at:]

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