Activist cattlemen align with anti-beef activist groups

Jan Lyons, Kansas Cattle Producer and NCBA President:

"In a shocking announcement in Washington, D.C., today, NCBA members have discovered that R-CALF will be holding a press conference tomorrow morning with anti-beef activist groups including Public Citizen, Consumer Federation of America, and Consumers Union.

"These groups are apparently willing to destroy consumer confidence in our products to achieve their partisan political gains, such as damaging the reputation of the Bush Administration and blocking international trade. This move is another scare tactic that could create serious negative impressions of beef thanks to the controversial and erroneous message. The groups apparently plan to make claims that U.S. consumers are at risk from mad cow disease due to Canadian beef imports. While we would fully expect this from these activist groups, it is inexplicable for a cattle organization to join them.

"As honest and hard-working cattlemen who have worked for decades to instill consumer confidence in our exceptional product, this latest move by R-CALF is inexcusable. After decades of educational efforts explaining why all beef products sold in the U.S. are safe from BSE, this group's insistence to join forces with anti-beef activist groups to imply our food supply is unsafe chips away at the credibility of the entire industry.

"The BSE agent is not found in muscle meat. More than 15 years of multiple firewalls have been erected to erase this rare disease from existence, including the feed ban, surveillance system and removal of specified risk material from the food supply. Strict levels of safeguards exist to ensure that all U.S. beef, imported or domestic, is safe.

"These activist groups represent the most negative and inaccurate views on the safety of beef and beef products. They are spurring a mass media storm to further their own agenda by questioning the safety of our product. Their actions are designed to tear down the credibility of the USDA and obliterate people's faith in our entire livelihood.

"It is inexcusable for cattle producers to align themselves with consumer activist groups that have for decades tried to destroy the favorability of beef in the American diet. NCBA and its members are committed to building consumer demand for beef and ensuring that our consumers have the safest product in the world for their families."

About the activist groups joining forces with R-CALF:

  • Carol Tucker Foreman and her Consumer Federation of America (CFA) are often quoted as saying irradiation is ineffective, stating "Sterilized poop is still poop." These groups have opposed state cattle association and NCBA efforts to allow state-inspected beef processors to sell products across state lines or in international markets. Yet, they have supported proposals to increase the amount of soy and reduce the amount of meat in school lunch programs.

    In 2001, CFA co-signed a petition to USDA claiming cattle were better protected from mad cow disease than people. In 2004, Tucker-Foreman has been quoted as saying the "new regulations have more holes in them than a mad cow's brain," stating  "I can't help the paranoia of American cattlemen. They would like to not have the government in their lives at all."

    Tucker-Foreman and Michael Hansen with Consumers Union have been the leading sources of negative information regarding the beef industry throughout the media's coverage of BSE since the Dec. 23 announcement, according to media analysis.

  • The Consumer's Union has a call to action for expanded testing of cattle for BSE. Michael Hansen of the CU has stated of the 1997 feed ban-"the way the rule is written, you can take scrapie-infested sheep, CWD-infested deer and BSE-infested animals and legally put that in animal feed and give it to pigs, chickens-anything but ruminants, as long as it's labeled. That's outrageous...The new thing is to feed calves spray-dried bovine plasma. It's hardly processed, so you're not knocking down the infectivity-and you can put it right in the feed."

    Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop singled out Hansen's cancer scare claims regarding biotechnology as "baseless, manipulative and completely irresponsible." Koop noted, "Unfortunately, a few fringe groups are using misleading statements and blatant falsehoods as part of a long-running campaign to scare consumers about a perfectly safe is necessary to condemn these attacks ... for what they are: baseless, manipulative and completely irresponsible."

  • Public Citizen, founded by Ralph Nader, is a member of the Global Safe Food Alliance, a front group set up by animal-rights organizations. ¬†Other activist group members include the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the Humane Farming Association, Farm Sanctuary, United Poultry Concerns, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, the Organic Consumers Association, and the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment.

    In addition to this, available on Public Citizen's Web site are links to the Meatrix, an animal rights activist video designed to turn consumers away from meat and a report entitled "Jungle 2000: Is America's Meat Fit to Eat?" a survey of union meat inspectors designed to undermine HACCP.