25 December 2003

Whom Do You Trust?

Ultimately, each of us is responsible for his or her safety. This is true of eating, flying, and everything else. After the horrific attacks of 11 September 2001, each of us had (and still has) to decide whether to fly. Now that mad-cow disease has been documented in a United States herd, each of us has to decide whether to eat beef. (Many of us don't eat it anyway; I'm referring to those who do.)

Do you trust statements emanating from the beef industry? Do you trust statements emanating from the United States Department of Agriculture, which is in the pocket of the beef industry? We know that the beef industry is aggressive to the point of dishonesty in marketing its products. Think of all the slogans over the years designed to make people think beef is essential to health: "Real Men Eat Beef"; "Beef: It's What's for Dinner"; and so on. Lately, the beef industry has been trying to persuade women (how's that for sexism?) that cooking beef is quick and easy. Why, in just thirty minutes you can have beef on the table for your husband and children. The not-so-subtle implication is that if you don't feed your family beef, you're not a good wife and mother.

I wouldn't trust the beef industry with a nickel of my money, much less with my life and health. This is cynical, but I think cynicism is warranted in this case, given the industry's duplicity and demonstrated lack of concern for consumer health. I say the same thing about the airline industry after 9-11. It got to the point where airline representatives were calling Americans weenies for not flying. "Fraidy cat!" "Wuss!"

As most readers of this blog know (but some may not), the beef industry is so sensitive to lost profits that it uses the law to attack critics. Here in Texas, there is a "disparagement" law that allows the industry to sue those who disparage its products. That is an abuse of legal processes. But the industry, at least in Texas, is powerful. It is almost a separate branch of government. At least the airline industry isn't built on deprivation, suffering, and death, like the beef industry.

I hope Americans stop eating beef. It won't be for the right reason (which is concern for the animals whose flesh is consumed), but doing the right thing for the wrong reason is better than doing the wrong thing. What's the industry going to do, sue mad-cow disease? Pass a law requiring that every citizen eat beef? Ha!