Where's the beef?

Let them eat mad cow

The United States has such a superior view of itself, illustrated perfectly by its response to donations made for relief after hurricane Katrina. Faced with the need to provide food for so many evacuees, the US put out an urgent plea for help. Great Britain and other countries charitably sent hundreds of thousands of ready-to-eat meals. Now we learn that instead of distributing them to hungry and starving storm victims, the US stashed the meals away in an Arkansas warehouse. Why? Because the meals contained British beef.

That's right, the administration of compassionate conservative George W Bush decided it would be better to let the people go hungry than to expose them to an infinitessimal risk that the beef might carry mad cow disease. Never mind that the military of these countries — allies in the War on Terror and in NATO — doubtless eat these meals on a regular basis themselves!

It would be one thing to say that the meals should not be consumed under any circumstances because the risk of spreading mad cow disease, however small, is just too great a risk to take. But the Bush administration is now offering those same meals to other countries with needy people. In other words, it's OK for them to run the risk of mad cow disease, just not for us.

Well, lah-de-dah!

The US frequently takes this attitude. Products that are deemed unsafe for US consumers are freely exported to other countries. Similarly, products that other countries consider safe for their own citizens are barred from the US. It's the Barbara Bush attitude writ large: They are, after all, underprivileged anyway.