Feb 16, 2004
Dave Louthan, the slaughterhouse worker who killed the first mad cow found in the United States, has given a very different account of that cow, and of the situation in the beef industry, than the government gives. And he's paid a price for it.
Louthan was the first to reveal that the cow had been ground into hamburger and almost surely eaten by then – two weeks after the cow was killed.
Shortly after that interview, he was fired.
He began to write letters to newspapers and testified in front of the Washington State Legislature. His message: that the mad cow he killed was not too sick to walk, or a "downer" cow, as the Department of Agriculture had reported. "Mad cows aren't downers. They're up and they're crazy," he said.
That means that the one thing the government did after this scare, to prohibit the use of downer cows, does absolutely nothing to stop mad cow meat from getting into the food supply.
Louthan also says that this mad cow was found by a total fluke. It was only because of his decision to kill the cow outside, because he feared it would trample actual downer cows nearby. Cows killed outside are the only ones automatically tested at that slaughterhouse. If it had been killed inside, it would have passed through undetected.
Since the Department of Agriculture is testing only 40,000 cows out of a total of 30 million, the chances are good that many more cows like that are passing into the food supply.
As a carcass splitter Louthan also saw first hand what others have reported but the government has tried to hide – that the technique they use splits the spinal column and sprays spinal matter all over the beef. Since it's the spinal cord, as well as the brain, that carries the disease, all beef could be contaminated by this procedure.
Finally, Louthan started writing e-mails to a number of inspectors at the Agriculture Department demanding to know what they would do about this dangerous situation. Since then, he's received regular visits from the department demanding that he shut up about it.
What, or who, is the U.S. Department of Agriculture protecting?