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Doubletalk Plays Games with Our Industry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Tuesday, 26 April 2005
AFF Sentinel Vol. 2, #18

Isn't R-CALF's, "What? Who Us?" Game Wearing Thin?

Regardless of how one might feel about opening the Canadian border to live cattle under 30 months of age, we at AFF have emphasized our concern over R- CALF's unjustified and extremely risky strategy of attacking consumer confidence in beef to keep the border closed. Questioning the safety of beef from cattle handled the same way in Canada as we handle them here - removing the Specified Risk Material (SRM) to keep any possibly infective material out of the food supply - raises questions among consumers both in the U.S. and abroad. That is to say nothing of fears raised if we discover a native-born case in the U.S.

In a later, more recent legal brief filed with the courts, R-CALF made the following statement: "R- CALF has never argued that there was a great risk to human health from resumed imports of cattle and beef from Canada." That is an exact quote from the legal brief - nothing moved or changed.

So what exactly did R-CALF say in its initial lawsuit? Here's a sampling of the passages directly regarding human health:

  • "U.S. consumers would be subjected to both greater and unnecessary risk of contracting and dying of vCJD" [if imports are allowed].
  • "This [labeling Canadian cattle] would allow consumers to protect themselves against the increased risk (or perceived risk) of exposure to BSE prions in Canadian cattle."
  • [Private company testing] would give, "consumers greater confidence that they will not be exposed to the increased risk (or perceived risk) of BSE prions in Canadian cattle..."
  • [The APHIS Final Rule] "will expose domestic cattle and consumers to increased health risks."
  • "R-CALF USA members will also be adversely affected by the increased risk of disease they face when Canadian beef enters the U.S. meat supply."

So how does that list square with R-CALF's later statement that they "never argued that there was a great risk to human health?" So are we down to splitting hairs - the difference between "increased" and "greater" as opposed to "great?" What recent example of disputed definitions, word parsing and hair splitting does this bring to mind - say, presidentially speaking?

Regardless of how you size up the gap between "greater" and "great," R-CALF got what it wanted. Judge Cebull took "greater" and "increased" and ran with it to "genuine risk of death for U.S. consumers" and "catastrophic risk of danger to the beef consumers in the U.S." Not into hair splitting, Cebull went whole hog.

Hair splitting is an exact science. It is not a job best left up to lawyers and judges, to clumsy legal maneuverings that have nothing to do with the issue. Puts me in mind of a comment a reviewer made years ago about a rock-n-roll guitarist he didn't like, "He plays like he's got boxing gloves on."

Was the escalation of "greater" and "increased" to "genuine risk of death" and "catastrophic" planned, or was it a happy accident for R-CALF? We sure don't know.

Why did Cebull, knowing full well what R-CALF wanted, choose to amplify even R-CALF's exaggerated claims?

R-CALF surely could not have been disappointed with the result.

The New York Times picked up the "genuine risk of death" quote in particular just days later.

Then R-CALF itself used Cebull's attack on USDA to launch a broadside about "possible impacts on human and animal health" in its Washington Post ad.

So how can R-CALF claim innocence in assailing consumer confidence in beef, in painting a dire picture of risk to human health?

Right or wrong, at least Cebull made it plain where he stood. For R-CALF to claim they "never argued that there was a great risk to human health" is misleading, disingenuous doubletalk. They are trying to have it both ways.

To us, it's pretty plain. Cebull's conclusions are wrong. R-CALF provoked the opinion on human health danger and now is claiming innocence. That's preposterous.

Lawyers may like these word games. Consumers aren't usually into word games at the meat counter or when eating out. If they think people are playing games with their food or their safety, they spend their money elsewhere. We can only hope the 9th Circuit sees through the exaggerations, doubletalk and smoke of both plaintiff and judge.

It's not Canadian beef that's putting the U.S. consumer at risk. R-CALF is putting the U.S. beef industry at risk...or is it "increased" risk...or "great" risk... or "greater" risk... or "catastrophic" risk. That's the problem with hair all depends on what your definition of "is" is. Or what you really said... or stand for.

Next time: Flip Flopping Undercuts Judge.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
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