Downer Cows

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Brandon Keim at Wired Science reports on a proposed rule from the USDA banning the slaughter of downer cows. Mr. Keim, like most Americans, has a short memory, since this action from the USDA is a direct result of the slaughterhouse videotapes and subsequent recall of beef last winter, but he is surprised that downer cows are slaughtered. This is still a proposed rule, yet it has been 7 months since the videotapes were made public, 4 months since the beef industry requested such a ban, and 3 months since the USDA said it would enact such a ban, so it’s no wonder that we’ve failed to make the connection (good thing there’s Google!).

Another link from Wired Science goes to an article that talks about the need for a single agency in charge of food safety. But, the USDA and the beef industry acknowledge that this rule has nothing to do with actual public safety: The Agriculture Secretary has said “This is not a food safety issue. It never has been,” and “This action sends a clear message to consumers in both domestic and in international markets that we will continue to uphold the highest standards to protect our food supply and deliver the highest-quality products.” Furthermore, this idea that a central agency is better sounds an awful lot like the argument made for the Department of Homeland Security, which is, of course, a huge success.

State bureaucracies will never be about protecting the citizens, and can never react as quickly as the free market to solve real problems. State bureaucracies provide a double-whammy: they encourage the availability of less safe products and the complacency of a less-informed citizenry.

3:38 pm on August 29, 2008