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Friday, February 29, 2008

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

posted by on February 29 at 15:46 PM


Photo of downer cow being dragged to slaughter via Farm Sanctuary.

February 18, 2008: The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) issues the largest beef recall in history, three weeks after the Humane Society released a video showing slaughterhouse workers administering electric shocks and high-intensity water sprays to cows that were too sick to stand, and rolling the cows over with forklifts. According to the Boston Globe, “One worry when an animal collapses is that it may have bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the infection known as ‘mad cow disease.’” The majority of US mad cow cases have come from such so-called “downer” cows.

February 29, 2008: USDA director Ed Schafer rejected calls to ban downer cows from the food supply and said he wouldn’t support stiffer penalties against meat processing plants that violate food-safety laws. Although the recall came only after the Humane Society released a videotape made surreptitiously by a slaughterhouse worker documenting the violations, Schafer said he believes the system worked. “The rules are adequate,” Schafer said.

Monday, March 3: This is the deadline to submit comments to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which recently proposed lowering the standard for meat producers who want to label their products “naturally raised.” Under the proposed new standard, meat could be labeled “naturally raised” if it was produced without growth hormones, antibiotics, or mammalian or avian byproducts. That means, for example, that cows that were raised on factory farms on corn (not grass, their natural food), with no access to the outdoors, without natural breeding methods, and under inhumane conditions—and taken to massive, polluting industrial feedlots for fattening and slaughter—could be labeled “naturally raised.”

If you want to stop the United States’ food-quality standards from slipping even further, submit a comment to the USDA here.

RSS icon Comments


growth hormones, antibiotics, and corn are all technically "natural." just sayin'.

Posted by brandon | February 29, 2008 3:53 PM

Another reason I'm glad I don't eat meat.

You can eat whatever you want, but why would anyone want to eat meat procured in such a fashion? I don't think everyone should be a vegetarian, some people need to eat some meat to feel (and be) healthy, but isn't it worth the time/effort/expense to eat meat that you know the origin of, knowing how it lived, how it was slaughtered, how it was packaged and shipped?

Posted by Aislinn | February 29, 2008 3:54 PM

Thanks for posting the pic, ECB, because I think people who insist on eating beef should be fully aware of what goes on in that industry. It makes for informed consumerism.

It's ruined my day though.

I know a lot of people believe the universal purpose of animals is human consumption. I also know some people believe animals are merely products, but animals do feel pain, they care for their young, and they experience fear. As hard as I may try, I cannot call that a product.

Posted by Bauhaus | February 29, 2008 3:55 PM

What's wrong with this picture? Just that that looks like an ENORMOUS freakin' cow. No wonder it can't walk on its own.

Otherwise, that's good eatin'.

Posted by Wolf | February 29, 2008 3:56 PM

The people I hate the most are the pro-choice vegetarians.

Posted by nbc | February 29, 2008 3:57 PM

Thanks for the link, Erica. I just submitted my comment.

Posted by Hernandez | February 29, 2008 3:58 PM

No, Brandon, corn as feed for cattle is not natural. Cows cannot properly digest corn; it's not their natural food, which is grass. It raises the cow's stomach pH to the point where e.coli bacteria thrives instead of dying, which POISONS YOUR MEAT.

Natural does not mean what you think it does. Corn, a genetically modified plant (via thousands of years of cross-breeding), is a human creation. And even if it wasn't, it's no more a natural food for cattle than pine wood or uranium rocks are for humans.

So you may be "just sayin'", but you're wrong.

It will be interesting to see if an Obama administration can knock some sense into the USDA. I doubt it; they are the only government agency explicitly charged with protecting not the consumers but the producers.

Posted by Fnarf | February 29, 2008 4:00 PM

The call to action feels good, but let's face it: Absolutely diddly-shit will come of it. The USDA is headed by Bush appointees who will never, ever, ever, ever listen to concerns about consumer protection without being politically forced to, and no one's going to force them at this point.

I'm not eating beef these days, but if I did, this might be the cue to stop. And to wait for a new administration to come along which might show at least a small amount concern for the well-being of the populace.

Posted by tsm | February 29, 2008 4:00 PM

Yes, thank you for the link. I submit my comments too.

It is really easy to do. It only takes a minute. Please folks, submit a comment. It actually does make a difference. They need to know that we are watching. You know they are hearing from the beef lobby.

Posted by Papayas | February 29, 2008 4:01 PM

Back when the whole Jack In The Box/e.coli thing happened many yrs ago, I first learned that ground beef in most fast food burgers was made from the meat of dairy cows (like the one pictured) - animals pumped full of hormones to produce milk. I assumed (wrongly) that the meat of dairy cows was unfit for human consumption. Didn't eat red meat for 5 years after that.
I did backslide, but what I eat now, I pretty careful, ie eating organic and regionally-raised. It's scary how unsafe our food and drugs are (see the NYT story on recalled heparin from China, for example)

Posted by Madashell | February 29, 2008 4:03 PM

There's nothing wrong with being a pro-choice vegetarian. Or being a anti-death penalty and pro-choice.

There is something wrong with saying those you disagree with think what your straw man thinks. You made your straw man, so you own him.

I think eating meat from diseased animals eats holes in your brain, that's what's wrong here.

Posted by elenchos | February 29, 2008 4:04 PM

Why is Nader running for president while this is happening? Consumer protection is his forté that he should be focusing his energy on rather than an election.

Posted by apres_moi | February 29, 2008 4:07 PM

His forte? Nader hasn't played a serious role in consumer protection in thirty years.

Posted by Fnarf | February 29, 2008 4:14 PM

In light of the "bacon bowl" link, which led me to all sorts of bacony goodness, I am just damn glad we never hear of "downer pigs". Henceforth my diet will be 100% bacon. All hail bacon!

Posted by Dr_Awesome | February 29, 2008 4:23 PM

I just bought a bunch of organic meat straight from a farm down in Oregon a few weekends ago. It's all organic stuff they raise mostly for their own consumption, but my ladyfriend is old friends with their daughter, so we're in. Except they won't sell us any bacon, dammit.

Posted by povertyrich | February 29, 2008 4:25 PM

Wow, I'm actually in agreement with elenchos. That's new.

I'm a pro-choice, anti-death penalty, vegetarian. What some people don't seem to understand about being pro-choice is that's it not pro-abortion, it's pro-letting-people-make-their-own-decisions-about-their-body. How is that counter-intuitive to my dietary choices, which by definition are my choice and not enforced upon anyone else?

Posted by Aislinn | February 29, 2008 4:27 PM

Not trying to argue anything here, but that's a dairy cow. Chances are it isn't actually sick, it is just so old and overworked that it can't stand anymore. Doesn't make it right but I think it potentially alters the portrayal of the situation.

Posted by amp | February 29, 2008 4:30 PM

thats funny. I took "pro choice vegetarian" to mean a vegetarian that doesn't give a crap about what anyone else eats, since its their choice...of which I am. Anti vegetarianism is a strange thing.

Posted by unred | February 29, 2008 4:34 PM

I just submitted my request for "more meat, damn the torpedoes...and activists."

Posted by Wolf | February 29, 2008 4:34 PM

oh and why would you want to eat THAT cow? It would be like me choosing to eat a carrot that is brown and limp and covered in mold.

Posted by unred | February 29, 2008 4:35 PM

These animals are falling down because they are terrified of dying. They can smell the blood and hear the death from the thousands of kin being slaughtered before them. They soil themselves from fear and go into shock. They fall down because they don't want to die. Just like you would.

Posted by crazycatguy | February 29, 2008 4:36 PM

I agree - people should know what's involved in killing the meat they eat.

And then make an informed conscious choice ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 29, 2008 4:51 PM

Oh, god, now the tough guys are going to impress everyone by posting how unafraid they are of killing animals. And if we're really lucky they're going to tell us about their guns and how they are so good at shooting them and we're all going to be so impressed.

I have a two word solution for you dudes: penis pump, okay? Penis. Pump.

Posted by elenchos | February 29, 2008 4:52 PM

Like others, thank you for posting this.

Posted by In MN | February 29, 2008 4:53 PM

Thanks so much for posting this, ECB. I just sent a comment and my partner is about to. Hope all others who care enough to look at the comments thread are also sending comments!

Posted by greendyke | February 29, 2008 4:56 PM

no regulations will tighten until january 20th, 2009.

they truly do not give a fuck what you think.

the only thing that would stop this is actual, proven BSE in the american food chain. someone, some PERSON, has to die.

Posted by max solomon | February 29, 2008 5:04 PM


I no more want to eat that cow than anyone else here, but your argument is silly. You are assigning human emotions to a cow. How could you possibly know that they are "terrified of dying"? Are you Dr. Doolittle? Can you talk to the animals?

Still, I wouldn't want to eat that cow, and rarely eat beef anyway.

Sadly, I think submitting public comment to the Bush-controlled USDA is probably pointless. The Bush-controlled FCC recently completely ignored public comment that overwhelmingly disapproved of their actions to allow media consolidation. Bush's cronies do what they want, and don't give a fuck about public comment.

The real solution is to publicize stuff like this. The more people see stuff like this, the less beef they'll eat.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | February 29, 2008 5:04 PM

nope, when i don't want to die i run away not go limp. going limp is the fastest way for a killer to catch you and, er, kill you.

Posted by zeebleoop | February 29, 2008 5:17 PM

One more:

In broad strokes, compare farm practices 200 years ago to those today. When they're 90% overlapping, and when the 10% difference is for safety rather than for output maximization, a farm's output may warrant the label "naturally raised."

You're enforcing full disclosure on food I consume. Please don't dumb down my standards to those of the least common denominator, least savvy meat consumer, or best-funded industry lobbyist. I need you to err on the side of caution, of transparency, of accurate labels.

Posted by Troy | February 29, 2008 5:20 PM

I'm not as concerned about organic beef as I am that it's 100% grass-fed. As ECB and Fnarf state, cattle eating corn is unnatural - their stomach's can't digest it. As a result, stomachs of corn-fed cattle are a prime breeding ground for E coli. Grass-fed beef has a different makeup, also, as a third of the fat, 60% of the grass-fed fat is made up of Omega-3s, and these cattle aren't breeding grounds for E coli.

Posted by Ebenezer | February 29, 2008 5:27 PM

And I should point out that Beefalo uses about 1/10th to 1/20the grazing land as Beef does per pound.

Plus you don't need to use corn and they have a wider range ability.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 29, 2008 5:33 PM

i was just being silly, fnarf. it's absolutely idiotic to allow marketers to define a word as vague and ridiculously overused as 'natural.'

Posted by brandon | February 29, 2008 5:58 PM

meat is murder.

Posted by morrisey | February 29, 2008 7:06 PM

Yep. And yer veggies scream when ya kill 'em too. Music to my ears.

Posted by Elvis | February 29, 2008 7:45 PM

I won't eat anything that cannot be killed....

Posted by NapoleonXIV | February 29, 2008 8:48 PM

I don't think that cow wants to go anywhere!

Posted by Kristin | February 29, 2008 9:05 PM

"TGFECB." My new T-shirt.

Posted by sara | February 29, 2008 9:28 PM


corn fed cows produce more carbon emissions than "natural" grass fed cows.

just sayin'.

Posted by joe | March 1, 2008 1:12 AM

Fear of death is nothing more than instinct in non-humans, right?

Posted by Kent Cudgel | March 1, 2008 7:33 AM

The cruelty administered to these creatures is heartbreaking -- unconscionable . Forget about the disease issue for a minute, and just take in the horror of the situation.

Visit the Humane Society's website and view the video of the animals being tortured, all for the sake of a buck, all in a days work.

It's the feel bad film of the year.

There's a special rung in hell for the likes of folks like Ed Schafer.

Posted by David K. | March 2, 2008 11:46 AM
Posted by toadmommy | March 2, 2008 12:42 PM

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