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The Long Road Ahead PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Friday, 26 August 2005
AFF Sentinel Vol.2, #41

NY Times Editorial Shows Major Media Susceptible to Misinformation

Is the New York Times laying low because they know they've been caught misleading the public? Did they figure out they had been suckered overmuch by their activist sources?

Did the Times editorial department finally do some research after they wrote their BSE editorial and discover the accurate facts?

There is no way to tell, since the Times has been silent. Silent, that is, since they ran a huge house editorial ("Safer Beef," Aug. 13, 2005) that did a superb job of providing inaccurate information on BSE in the U.S., assailed the safety of the U. S. beef supply with all the breathlessness of the National Enquirer and even invented a new indecipherable but inflammatory expression for the beef cow.

The Times has published none of the letters we're sure they received from outraged cattlemen and beef organizations - of which the AFF was one - and not agreed to any organization's requests for meetings, as far as we know.

But the whole episode is a perfect illustration of the constant threats the beef industry faces and the battles we have to fight. The Times didn't suddenly wake up 20 months after the discovery of the first BSE cow in the U.S. and decide the sky was falling in regard to BSE. Claims that meatpackers use "dangerous methods that other countries ban," USDA does "not require enough testing," that cattle blood is "suspected of being able to carry infection," and "The riskiest meats are ground beef, hot dogs, taco fillings and pizza toppings - the things children love," are false claims, concepts and words directly taken from activist allegations used to attack the U.S. beef industry. Notice they managed to work in fear of the unknown, loathing for meatpackers, government mismanagement and threats to our children's safety in just those few words.

Then they managed to work in European superiority ("European countries test all animals over a certain age"), global superiority ("More than 60 countries have completely or partly banned American beef) and the idea that American beef is not safe ("no reason to feel confident about the American beef supply," "boneless steaks and roasts are probably safe to eat," and, since the USDA can't do it, a call for more government (a food safety agency separate from USDA). Do you suppose they would endorse Carol Tucker Foreman or perhaps Patty Lovera to head up that agency? Lovera, in case you're not familiar with the name, is the person in charge of Public Citizen's USDA attack department and much of the Times editorial reads like one of her speeches.

Groups like Nader's Public Citizen (PC), Consumer's Union (CU), and Carol Tucker Foreman's Consumer Federation of America (CFA), Global Resource Action Council for the Environment (GRACE) and a host of others constantly pound the media with these concepts and charges. They relish labeling cattle as "cannibals" as the Times did for feeding meat and bone meal in years past. But the Times may have crafted a semi-original expression on its own. We hadn't heard about the "industrial cow" before.

This kind of stuff is standard fare for extremist activist organizations. And they attempt to convince the public every day that food production is a vast conspiracy to poison them. Before 2003, it was not the kind of lurid fiction and distortion heard from cattlemen's organizations. But if you've read the legal brief filed by R-CALF in Billings District Court, you'll recognize all kinds of the same thinking, phraseology and claims in that document echoed in the Times editorial. And R-CALF has repeatedly expressed pride in its association with groups like PC, CFA and CU. The LAG* (Liberal Activist Groups) are proud of themselves.

We wouldn't be a bit surprised, if the Times ever deigns to discuss the episode, if its editors said something like, "But there is a serious difference of opinion within your own industry about whether U.S. beef is safe! R-CALF claims that it is not, agrees with our sources that say it is not and at least one district court judge agreed. We have plenty of justification for our opinion that cattlemen and the USDA is lying to us."

The activists on the fringes have had their screeches bolstered by a group of cattlemen and at least one activist judge. That can't help but cause the industry trouble for years to come.

There is a demonstrated silver lining to this incident. Cattlemen and beef industry organizations have established over time a rapport with real consumers, the foodservice industry and responsible media. That stands us in good stead when misinformation, idiot activism and rampant pandering to extremists by some media outlet threatens to severely damage or destroy our industry. The beef industry can thank its lucky stars for the cattlemen and beef industry people who years ago began investing time and money in trade associations like NCBA, the predecessor Meat Board/BIC, the state beef councils, the USMEF, state cattlemen's associations and a host of responsible organizations to disseminate facts and establish relationships and reputations.

*Fringe activist groups like Public Citizen (Ralph Nader), Consumer's Union, Consumer Federation of America (Carol Tucker Foreman), R- CALF, Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), Greenpeace, Global Resource Council for the Environment (GRACE) and others opposing mainstream, free-market, capitalist agriculture.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
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