26 December 2003

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Like most of you (or at least those who haven't been out shopping), I've been reading a lot (see here, for example) about mad-cow disease. It's interesting on many levels: epidemiologically, agriculturally, economically, politically, and morally. One thing is clear: The cost of beef and beef products will increase, perhaps significantly. Consumers will demand, and government will require, a more stringent inspection regime, the cost of which will be passed on to consumers by producers. Some consumers will switch to other, comparatively cheaper meats, such as pork, turkey, and chicken; but others will eliminate beef from their diet without replacing it. I can't but think that mad-cow disease will be a good thing for farm animals generally.

While I'm on the subject, is anyone besides me dumbfounded by the fact that otherwise intelligent, reasonable, even sensitive people eat beef? Have you been reading the stories about how it is produced? Cows live in filthy, stinking conditions. They walk about in their own feces and urine, with flies thick on their bodies. The slaughterhouse is covered in blood, guts, and gore. Either beef-eaters don't know about these conditions or they know and don't care. I can't believe they don't care. So maybe reading stories about where their neatly wrapped hamburger and steak comes from will make a difference to their behavior. You are what you eat.