BSE Testing Hot Topic on “Boston Legal”
By Sara Brown, Livestock and production editor
Source of Article: http://www.agweb.com/get_article.aspx?pageid=146835
With the hubbub of the election, you might have
missed ABC’s “Boston
Legal” tackling the beef industry. Followers of the show are associated
with character Denny Crain (William Shatner)’s long
battle with “mad-cow disease” and Allan
Shore (James Spader)’s ability to ramble into making a point in
Last night’s episode centered on cattle rancher
Carol Hober (Valerie Bertinelli)
suing the USDA for not allowing her to test every animal on her ranch for
bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). During testimony, Bertinelli’s
character accused the USDA of catering to corporate meat packers who are
against the cost of mandatory testing, while 65 countries impose trade
restrictions on U.S.
“That’s the policy at my ranch. We want to test
every cow so we can be safe. How dare the federal government say I can’t do
so,” Hober said on the stand.
“Mrs. Hober, I would
argue that the federal government would say testing every cow is not
necessary,” Hober’s lawyer, Shore said.
“So what?” Hober said.
“Why should they prohibit us from doing so if we are willing to bear the
expense? It’s ludicrous.”
Proponents for USDA on the show revealed BSE
testing can only detect the disease shortly before the animal exhibits
symptoms—which for most U.S.
cattle is after the typical age of slaughter.
“First of all, testing can’t detect mad cow
disease until shortly before the cow develops symptoms. Cattle are typically
slaughtered at 24 months of age—that is long before the disease is
detectable. Look, all this testing, testing, testing talk, the reality is,
testing can’t make a difference,” said the proponent for USDA.
When asked why to bother with testing in the
first place, the USDA representative replied “Well, I guess it is possible it
could help. And let’s face it, the public wants to feel safe. So the testing
gives them some confidence in the meat industry—that’s a good thing.”
During Shore’s cross examination, the USDA
representative said that allowing some ranchers like Hober
advertise the fact they test all of their animals would make the rest of the
beef industry look unsafe.
In the end, the judge ruled in favor of Hober, allowing her to continue testing cattle and
advertising that fact to consumers.
The beef and other livestock industries have been
at the fore-front of the entertainment industry, most recently when Oprah on
Oct. 14 explored the housing and handling of U.S. livestock.