Mad Cow Walking
January 24, 2004 10:13 PM   Subscribe

What if the Mad Cow wasn't a 'downer'?
posted by soyjoy (17 comments total)
If Dave Louthan's claim is true that the cow was 'a walker' he shot to stop it from trampling actual downers, there are some deeply troubling implications. Do you believe him, though? The plant manager calls him "sort of a disgruntled employee," yet confirms Louthan's claim that the cow was a walker. So far the USDA hasn't attacked these men's credibility (or repaired its own, frankly) - it seems to be hoping the whole thing will blow over. I'll be interested to see if it does.
posted by soyjoy at 10:15 PM on January 24, 2004

I just can't believe that you guys allow so-called downers into the food supply. A cow that is too sick to walk is too sick for me to eat, no matter what the cause. This is illegal here (New Zealand). I'm pretty sure we're not allowed to export them to the EU either.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:30 PM on January 24, 2004

Louthan: "Every cow that comes in here I kill. That kind of puts us in a relationship."

Hide your daughters!
posted by Slagman at 11:01 PM on January 24, 2004

especially if the resemble dead cows.
posted by quonsar at 11:22 PM on January 24, 2004

posted by homunculus at 11:32 PM on January 24, 2004

Joe's Spleen:

Yeah, I am pretty horrified about it too, and I live in the states (don't eat beef anymore). Part of the problem is that a member of the board of directors (Wendy Gramm) of the biggest beef processor (IBP, now part of Tyson) was the wife of a now-retired very powerful Senator (Phil Gramm of Texas). So the people who made the laws regarding beef processing were litterally in bed with people who had an interest in just processing the cattle and making the money.

In fact, if you Google "Wendy Gramm" "IBP" the third link is my commentary on the situation, written back when we beleived America was a Mad-Cow free bovine utopia.
posted by ilsa at 10:55 AM on January 25, 2004

I just can't believe that you guys allow so-called downers into the food supply.

Amreicans, by and large, don't care where our food comes from or whats in it as long as it tastes good. I know this because I do care and that makes shopping and going out to eat very difficult. There is very little here on supermarket shelves, or in restaruants, that is free of nastiness. Most Americans choose to not know over knowing and avoiding.

At least that is the only way I can explain the crap that is in our food here. If people knew and cared, solely through economic realities the situation would change. Why we don't know or care is a whole other can of worms.
posted by jester69 at 11:03 AM on January 25, 2004

I'm more likely to get sick from undercooked chicken or pork than mad cow from a downer. But that being said, I still don't like the idea of eating downer cattle.
posted by tomplus2 at 3:32 PM on January 25, 2004

did anyone else notice this?

Louthan, 44, said he's sorry to lose his job, because he enjoyed the work. "I did it because I liked to kill cows," he said. "I don't care if I'm hauling them, feeding them or killing them. As long as I'm around livestock, I'm happy. I'm a cowboy."

i'm glad to hear that the cow killers of america enjoy their work. somebody has to do it, right?
posted by joedan at 4:09 PM on January 25, 2004

With all due respect, the discussion you folks seem to be concentrating on is about eating downer cows. The key point here is that if Louthan is to be believed, the cow was not a downer, I repeat, not a downer. So even if we did succeed in banning all downer cattle from the food chain, we might still not be keeping out the Mad Cows.
posted by soyjoy at 4:13 PM on January 25, 2004


Since BSE doesn't manifest at the age when beef cattle are usually slaughtered, the only feasible thing is testing the whole herd, either as a random inspection, or even testing every one. Only dairy cattle at the end of their run are likely to be displaying symptoms.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:16 PM on January 25, 2004

I'm more worried about those Asian chickens right now.
posted by homunculus at 7:54 PM on January 25, 2004

To believe that downer cows are the problem here is to be frighteningly uninformed. The downer thing is a big, obvious issue, but in reality the entire system is corrupt and unsafe--all the way down the line. Without massive reform, the system will remain unsafe. And mad cow is only the tip of a very large iceberg. BSE is to E Coli what SARS is to a particularly nasty strain of influenza. It makes for great headlines--the big, scary unknown bug--but the number of actual cases is almost insignificant. The real bogeymen are bacteria like E Coli--which is EVERYWHERE, and can kill, and is often only discovered when a hospital notices a spike in the number of patients with crippling stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea.
posted by jpoulos at 8:30 PM on January 25, 2004

"frighteningly uninformed" sounds a lot more arrogant than I had intended. the fact is, we're all frighteningly uninformed, which i why i won't eat factory-produced meat. one simply can't know what's in there. the industry is blinded by greed, and the government is in bed with the industry. it's a cliche but it's true: there's nobody looking out for us.
posted by jpoulos at 8:54 PM on January 25, 2004


The USDA now seems to be confirming (in a surprisingly casual way) that the Mad Cow was not a downer. Whereas the previous party line was "the system worked - we test downers and this was a downer, now we have this:

But [USDA Spokesman Nolan] Lemon said this case proved the system does work. The cow in question was flagged because of its odd behavior, such as running around in its pen, he said.

OK, if it was running around in its pen, it definitely wasn't a downer. So the big new initiative to keep downers out of the food chain will do what, exactly?
posted by soyjoy at 7:49 AM on January 27, 2004

One more update:

Louthan's story makes it to the NY Times, including the interesting little detail that the Mad Cow is the only one on the stats sheet whose (rectal) temperature could not be taken (since, according to Louthan, it was up and running around instead of lying down, like a downer). Meanwhile, the USDA counters by definitively stating they have no idea if the plant in question was still testing for Mad Cow.
posted by soyjoy at 8:28 AM on February 3, 2004

As this thread expires, the Mad-Cow-Not-a-Downer has become common knowledge to most people writing about the issue - it shows up at the end of most stories and editorials now - but U.S. consumers are by and large still blissfully unaware that the USDA was wrong, either intentionally or not, on this central issue.

Steve Mitchell from UPI uncovers the latest evidence: "a test for illegal antibiotics and a temperature reading are required to be performed on all downer animals. However, neither test was conducted, suggesting the animal was not a downer."
posted by soyjoy at 9:22 AM on February 24, 2004

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