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Bill

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Injunction Opinion: A Further Risk To Consumer Confidence

R-CALF Goes Closer to Edge
Colorado Springs, CO March 10, 2005


So how did your paper report the preliminary injunction R-CALF won against USDA's Final Rule on Canada?

Rancher's Group Opposed to All Imports Wins Injunction in Court
USDA-Hating Rancher's Group Wins Injunction
R-CALF Wins Round in Turf War With USDA
Using Consumers As Pawns in Import War, R-CALF Wins A Round
R- CALF Throws Everything Up Against the Wall To See What Judge Will Believe
R-CALF Demonstrates Allegations, Exaggerations and Half-Truths All Is Necessary to File Lawsuit

I didn't think so.

Here's what the papers did say:

"A federal judge in Montana granted a livestock group's request to postpone reopening the border to cattle and other beef imports from Canada because of concerns about mad cow disease." R-CALF had claimed "the move would pose a risk to consumers and U.S. cattle producers."

USA Today, 3/3/05, page 3A

The group's [R-CALF's] attorney, Cliff Edwards, said it would be "insane" to import cattle from a country that has reported two cases of mad cow disease this year.

Colorado Springs Gazette, 03/03/05, page A3

"...argued the reopening would expose their cattle - and U.S. consumers - to mad-cow disease, the fatal brain wasting ailment diagnosed in four Canadian-born cattle over the past 22 months."

Wall Street Journal, 3/3/05, page B2, with a "What's News" reference on Page One

Great way to promote your product to consumers in the popular press, eh?

Any mention of "mad cow" in the media is detrimental to the U.S. beef market. It raises a worrisome subject, and in this case, implies to consumers that beef from anywhere outside the U.S. might be suspect and unsafe for them to eat. And it certainly made Canadian beef a subject of controversy. Keep re-visiting this subject and the safety of U.S. beef - handled the same way - will be questioned again.

And that's the good part. If USDA decides not to appeal, or loses the appeal and the case goes to trial, the allegations in R-CALF's lawsuit could end up all over the pages of newspapers everywhere. Neither the pages of the general media nor a court room is the place for discussing the grandstanding collection of lurid exaggerations, unverified and unreplicated claims and tabloid-like attempts to raise doubts and questions about BSE contained in R- CALF's suit

Attorneys are evidently allowed to put just about anything they please in a lawsuit - fact, fiction or near-fiction. And they found a judge, in this case, who appears to have no frame of reference except what R-CALF's lawyers put in their legal brief. Certainly there appears to be no burden of proof as to factual basis for what goes in a legal brief.

So Judge Richard Cebull's opinion, with the following conjectures and fictions, is now part of the record and available to the public press. It would also be a sample of the kind of testimony and argument reported in a trial. Some samples:


"a decision that subjects the entire U.S. beef industry to potentially catastrophic damages and that presents a genuine risk of death for U.S. consumers."
"...it is a virtual certainty that Canadian cattle infected with BSE would be imported into the U.S."
"This causes a potentially catastrophic risk of danger to the beef consumers in the U.S."
"Allowing the import of Canadian cattle into the U.S. increases the potential for human exposure to material containing the agent for BSE in this higher-risk meat."
Referring to the feed ban, "there is no conclusive scientific proof that it is the only route, and it is unknown what other routes of transmission may be available. "
"Plaintiff argues that recent scientific data suggests that BSE prions may be transmitted by blood and perhaps saliva and scientific understanding of transmissibility of BSE is still evolving.
Plaintiff submitted comments that "...it is no longer reasonable to presume that there is no risk of exposure to BSE infectious agents once an SRM removal requirement is in place."
"failure to explain to the public why these benefits do not justify mandatory testing...
"...transmission of BSE from those cattle to animals in the U.S. ..."


Italics in the above bullet items are mine. They are just samples from Cebull's nearly 30-page opinion full of such stuff and the suit filed by R-CALF has more. Every one of the items above is either untrue, based on a false assumption, exaggerated or are all at once. Yet just as the judge cannot tell the difference, neither are all the popular media likely to, either. Remember, most journalists are the liberal arts students who avoided science and economics like the plague in school, and are unlikely to know much about the beef industry.

And just for good measure, the Senate has already chimed in with a resolution chastising USDA. Sen. Kent Conrad (D. N.D.) accused USDA of playing a "game of chance."

The only major media article I saw that went deeper than the scare claims, was one by the Wall Street Journal's Scott Kilman, who has much deeper knowledge of agriculture than the usual newspaper reporter. He also sees the bigger picture better than R-CALF and its attorneys. Lester Aldrich, an ag reporter who follows the industry closely, also chimed in for that article. Such expertise will not be evident at most major media outlets. Wall Street's story noted:

"Judge Cebull's ruling is a blow to the Bush administration's attempt to create a new international standard for doing business with countries that have a low incidence of mad-cow disease..." "Until recently, the U.S., like most nations, simply shut its border to infected countries."

"By accepting cattle younger than 30 months old from Canada, the U.S. government is trying to show such countries as Japan and South Korea it is safe for them to import U.S. beef again."

Wall Street Journal, 3/3/05, page B2

Interestingly, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), whose recommendations R-CALF erroneously claims the USDA is flouting, filed a brief in the case. David Wilson, the group's head of International Trade, notes that recommendations from OIE are to be used by "veterinary authorities or other competent authorities," when establishing health regulations. "Thus, they aim to avoid the transfer of agents pathogenic for animals or humans, without the imposition of unjustified trade restrictions."

What is the justification for R-CALF trying to set themselves up as "veterinary authorities?" They certainly are attempting unjustified trade restrictions.

The saddest irony of all this is the judge's expressions of concern for consumer confidence in beef, when it is R-CALF and this suit that holds the biggest potential for damaging consumer confidence - - unjustifiably so. While the USDA may not have made every move perfectly over the last two years, it has done an extremely good job of safeguarding consumers, using and weighing the proven science and protecting consumer confidence in the safety of beef.

They should be running the show, not lawyers and judges.




The Agribusiness Freedom Foundation promotes free market principles throughout the agricultural food chain. The AFF believes it is possible to value the traditions and heritage of the past while embracing the future and the changes it brings. The AFF is a communications and educational initiative striving to preserve the freedom of the agricultural food chain to operate and innovate in order to continue the success of American agriculture.

The AFF - freedom watchdog for American agriculture.



Agribusiness Freedom Foundation
AFF: Promoting free market principles throughout the agricultural food chain.

Website: http://www.agribusinessfreedom.org
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Unfortunately, R-CALF is simply too arrogant and too ignorant to realize how their "fear mongering" lies will affect beef consumption in the U.S.


~SH~
 
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