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It's a mad mad mad mad mad mad...cow

CBC's The National was giving Canada's problems with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or "mad cow disease") quite a bit of airtime over the last year, more than I think I saw in most U.S. media outlets. Well, that's understandable, because it really affects their beef industry. The grand total of infected cows was four, and they were caught well before they entered the human food chain. That was still enough for a U.S. court to issue a temporary injunction continuing a U.S. Department of Agriculture ban on importing Canadian beef in March 2005.

The CBC uncovered evidence from the USDA's own files that there may have been two cases of BSE in upstate New York in 1996 or 1997. The documents finally settled on saying the cows had some rare central nervous system disorder never before seen, but on a couple of occasions the CBC reported cited missing evidence -- missing or incomplete brain tissues that would've shown conclusively whether it was BSE or not. So was there a coverup of some kind? Who knows. Here's the link to the story from The National tonight: http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/04/12/usbse050412.html .

Granted, I'm not a livestock management professional, but as I understand it, the real danger to BSE is not in the meat getting into the food chain -- that's pretty easy to avoid. The real danger is other cows getting infected. But that only happens if they eat feed that's been augmented with, um, cow brains. That hasn't been legal in Canada in over a decade. I thought the USDA response to Canada's four cases was a bit extreme. So I was really interested in tonight's investigation. I wonder where this will lead?

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