Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman says that “beef is absolutely safe to eat.” Harvard University experts note that the risk of Americans contracting mad cow disease is “as close to zero as you can get.” Every reputable expert tells us that the American meat supply is still safe. And yet a cabal of animal-rights activists and radical opponents of modern farming are already hitting the airwaves for one purpose: to spread fear and needless alarm.

These people are activists, not knowledgeable scientists. Their expertise is in scare mongering, not livestock agriculture. Their goal is to promote animal rights and organic-only, 1800s-style agriculture. And their track record is full of doom-and-gloom predictions that never came true.

Who are these masters of disaster? A rogues gallery follows:

John Stauber — director of the anti-corporate Center for Media & Democracy, and co-author of the 1997 book Mad Cow USA, which was supported financially by the eco-religious Foundation for Deep Ecology. Stauber sits on the national advisory board of the Organic Consumers Association, as reliable a scaremonger as any about the American food supply. Stauber has become a near-ubiquitous media presence in mad-cow-related stories. Just minutes after Secretary Veneman finished her press conference announcing the discovery of a single sick cow, Stauber told CNN — without any evidence whatsoever — that it was just “the tip of an invisible iceberg” and that “mad cow disease is spread throughout North America.”

Ronnie Cummins — head of the Organic Consumers Association, a group founded by radical anti-technology guru Jeremy Rifkin. Cummins has openly expressed his hope that a U.S. mad-cow epidemic would fuel a “crisis of confidence” in American food, similar to the one that he claims drove British consumers to “organic” and other high-priced options. In 1998 Cummins told the Minneapolis City Pages that “consumers and farmers would both be better off if people paid twice as much for their meat and ate half as much.” This June he confidently told a Canadian Press reporter that “no case of mad cow has ever been found in a cow raised on an organic farm.” This, actually, is not true. The British Central Veterinary Laboratory reports that in 1995 (at the height of the UK outbreak), there were 215 confirmed cases of mad cow disease from 36 different organic farms. And Germany’s very first case of mad cow disease was diagnosed in a slaughterhouse that only processed organically-raised cattle.

Michael Greger — a vegetarian activist doctor who maintains a brisk animal-rights speaking schedule and edits the mad-cow-scare web page of the Organic Consumers Association. He recently provided PETA with a laughable treatise suggesting that the SARS outbreak came from livestock farming. Greger titled his mad-cow stump speech “Mad Cow Disease: Plague of the 21st Century?.” He argues: “although no pigs or chickens have been found with the disease … any animal with a brain has the potential to become infected.” Greger has yet to produce any evidence to support this claim, largely because there isn’t any. Neither hogs nor hens (nor fish, for that matter) suffer from mad-cow-like illnesses. Greger is planning to hit the lecture circuit in an effort to “keep hammering” the meat industry and “ keep this momentum going.”

Michael Hansen — the Consumers Union of the United States’ self-proclaimed “expert” on genetically enhanced food, bovine growth hormone, mad cow disease, and any other food issue he deems ripe for scaremongering. When the Canadian mad-cow story broke earlier this year, Hansen blithely suggested that American consumers should eat only grass-fed, “organic,” and other specialty beef. Hansen’s statements on mad cow have appeared in hundreds of media outlets, and his boss, Jean Halloran, has weighed in as well.

Howard Lyman — one part animal-rights scold, one part revival tent preacher [click here for video]. Lyman trades on the fact that he was brought up in a cattle-ranching family to imply that his strict vegetarianism is somehow more informed than everyone else’s dietary choices. Lyman famously (and incorrectly) predicted on the “Oprah” show that mad cow disease among Americans would “make AIDS look like the common cold.” Just 14 hours after the U.S. mad-cow announcement, animal-rights terroristand Sierra Club board member Paul Watson published an op-ed asserting that “Howard Lyman predicted this outbreak years ago. Perhaps now the public might pay more attention to this Montana rancher turned vegan. He knows that of which he speaks.” It’s no coincidence that Lyman is on the advisory board of Watson’s violent Sea Shepard Conservation Society. The front page of The Washington Post’s “Style” section seconded Watson’s misleading praise of Lyman with an article titled “Ex-Cattleman’s Warning Was No Bum Steer.”

Dave Louthan — a disgruntled former employee of the Washington state meat processing plant where the first U.S. mad-cow case was detected. After losing the job he loved (slaughtering cows), Louthan launched a crusade against beef producers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a personal jihad supported by animal rights activists who must otherwise recoil at his admitted passion for bloodying beef cattle. This is a man who clearly enjoyed his work — using a bolt gun to kill cows, buffalo, ostrich, emu and alpaca for Vern’s Moses Lake Meats. He told the New York Times that killing is “really fun,” and beats deboning, which he calls “girls’ work.” In the Seattle Times, Louthan added: “I liked to kill cows. I don’t care if I’m hauling them, feeding them or killing them.”

Like many in the meat business, Louthan lost his source of income because of the mad cow scare recklessly promoted by activist groups. But he’s mad, and he’s fighting back. Despite copious evidence to the contrary, he continues to claim that the famous cow he killed (the one that later tested positive) and many others like it were ground into hamburger and entered the human food chain. “The hamburger surprise in your kids’ school lunch,” Dave claims, “has come from mad cows … Your kids will get mad cow from it.”

A man of many contradictions, Louthan warns that the U.S. government “is trying to kill you.” He’s calling on anti-beef and animal-rights groups to send him money so he can “keep up the fight.” Yet he admits continuing to eat beef on a daily basis. The verdict is still out on whether or not this former trucker from Texas can successfully change careers from killing cows to assassinating the character of cattlemen.

Terry Singletary — A retired machinist and high school dropout, Terry Singletary suffered the tragic loss of his mother to “sporadic” Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in 1997. Desperate to find an explanation for his mother’s death, he has devoted himself to the sad and fruitless task of connecting her death to her diet. Various reports confirm that Mrs. Singletary’s life was claimed by the most common sub-type of CJD (one that accounts for 70 percent of “sporadic” cases). Sporadic CJD, unlike its newer “variant,” is not linked to meat.

As the self-appointed international coordinator of CJD Watch, an organization he co-founded with social worker Deborah Oney, Singletary is cited in media reports as an apparent expert on tracking mad cow disease. This despite his lack of formal education and the absence for support from any credible academic, medical or scientific authority. His sensationalist allegations about the safety of U.S. beef have found their way into hundreds of newspapers and broadcasts. Singletary moderates a mad-cow discussion forum run by a vegetarian activist group; his contributions account for more than half the traffic on the “BSE-L” mailing list, which is generally read by real scientists. Animal rights activists and other food-scare artists frequently refer to him as “Dr. Terry Singletary,” apparently an honorary degree as he has yet to finish high school.

Like many activists, Singletary ignores overwhelming epidemiological and laboratory evidence that rules out a connection between sporadic CJD and beef. Relying entirely on shallow circumstantial evidence and frequent repetition of claims which have been publicly refuted as false, he also blindly insists upon a mad-cow with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. His specific allegations have been clearly refuted by Centers for Disease Countrol and Prevention scientists in the journal Neurology.

Marion Nestle — New York University’s food scold extraordinaire. Although Nestle concedes that the risk of getting mad cow disease is extremely low, she has nonetheless exploited mad cow fears to promote an anti-corporate, pro-organic creed. She has complained: “Until we have a little consumer protection going on in government, consumers have to take care of themselves.” How do consumers do that? By purchasing organic food, of course. Nestle told Fox News: “This is a very good time to buy organic.”

Bruce Friedrich — PETA’s director of vegan outreach. Friedrich revealed his true agenda when he argued: “I think it would be a great thing if all of these fast-food outlets, and these slaughterhouses, and these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows, and everything else along the line. Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it” [click here for audio]. There is seemingly nothing Bruce won’t do to scare people away from meat, including raising fears about mad cow disease. Under Friedrich’s leadership, PETA representatives have been handing out “emergency vegetarian starter kits,” and holding anti-meat posters outside restaurants and grocery stores all over the country. PETA has also started an aggressive and misleading (what’s new?) advertising campaign to frighten the public into vegetarianism.

Neal Barnard — the animal-rights movement’s not-so-secret weapon against meat. Sure he’s a doctor (a non-practicing psychiatrist, actually), but his tirades against dairy foods, beef, chicken, and Atkins-style diets are all informed by his connections to PETA. Barnard sits on the board of The PETA Foundation along with PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk. And PETA has funneled nearly $1 million to Barnard’s misnamed “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.” His virulent opposition to animal-based foods was clear in a recent speech at a Food and Drug Administration hearing, where he referred to cheese as “morphine on a cracker” and “dairy crack.” PCRM wasted no time after the mad cow news broke, sending out a press release attacking meat and offering a “vegetarian starter kit” for suddenly fearful carnivores.

target=_blank> Caroline Smith DeWaal — director of the food safety program at the quintessential food cop, the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Smith DeWaal, who has been advising consumers to grind their own beef, told The Washington Post: “Taco filling, pizza toppings, hot dogs, processed meats, these are all likely products that can expose consumers to mad cow disease.”

Wayne Pacelle — senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, a radical animal rights group masquerading as an animal-welfare organization. Pacelle immediately began to lobby the federal government on mad cow, petitioning the U.S. Department of Agriculture the morning after Veneman’s announcement. Pacelle’s goal is to create “a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement.” His opposition to eating meat is so strong that he has “no problems with the extinction of domestic animals.”

Gene Bauston — co-founder of the animal rights group Farm Sanctuary. This group was recently convicted of 210 counts of election fraud, in connection with the $465,000 it illegally trucked into a Florida ballot initiative that gave constitutional rights to pigs. Farm Sanctuary even paid a $50,000 fine. The group issued an e-mail alert to its approximately 18,000 members, requesting that they write to the USDA about mad cow. It also e-mailed a boilerplate “letter to the editor” to over 1,900 activists, asking them to send it to their local newspapers under their own individual signatures. In a gushing article, The New York Times praised the group for its crusade against the processing of “downer” cows. But the paper of record manages to overlook Farm Sanctuary’s early association with the domestic-terrorist Animal Liberation Front, as well as its electioneering mischief.

Mark Ritchie — scaremonger-in-chief at the anti-corporate, anti-modern-agriculture, anti-free-trade Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). He blames “industrialized beef production and liberalized trade” for mad cow disease. IATP has started distributing sound-bites for radio broadcast via a 1-800 number.

Eric Schlosser — anti-fast food activist and author of Fast Food Nation, which was essentially a screed against the consumption of hamburgers. It’s no surprise that Schlosser is using mad-cow fears to buttress his case. He flatly told CNN: “I don’t think anyone should eat ground beef.” Schlosser’s op-ed in The New York Times was similarly full of doom and gloom.

Andrew Knight — a Seattle veterinarian who recently took over the day-to-day operations of the radical Northwest Animal Rights Network. Knight is raising mad-cow panic levels without disclosing his animal-rights agenda. His letter in The Washington Times (Excerpt: “I, for one, will be stocking up on veggie burgers“) identified him only as “Dr. Andrew Knight, Seattle.” The San Diego Union-Tribune printed an expanded version of his Times letter as an op-ed. There he wrote: “it is not improbable that for the one mad cow detected thus far, some 1,700 have passed undetected into the food chain, and that the human form of this lethal disease is silently incubating in numerous unsuspecting beef eaters at present.” A subsequent op-ed in the Toronto Star used the exact same line.

Karen Hudson — a consultant for GRACE Factory Farm Project, which can’t stand the idea of efficient, large-scale agriculture. The group even compares animal husbandry to the post-apocalyptic movie, The Matrix. Hudson insists — without providing any evidence — that “mad cow disease is the product of an increasingly industrialized food system.”

Katherine DiMatteo — executive
director of the Organic Trade Association, which represents the $11 billion organic industry in North America. The group issued a media release arguing: “while the retail price of organic meat is generally greater than conventional, to many consumers, the greater peace of mind is priceless.”

Larry Bohlen and Brent Blackwelder — from the radical green group Friends of the Earth. The organization issued a “fact sheet” on mad cow that includes such topics as “mad cow on the rampage.” Blackwelder peddles the familiar and false story that the “best way for people to avoid the risk of mad cow disease is to eat organic, grass fed beef or beef alternatives.” Bohlen’s mad cow comments have found their way into the Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, and The Seattle Times.

Peter Lurie and Wenonah Hauter — food safety “experts” at Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen. Their public comments are designed to raise unfounded fears about eating conventionally-raised beef.

Felicia Nestor — chief food-safety worrier at the “whistleblowers’ rights” Government Accountability Project. Nestor worked with Public Citizen to author reports called “The Jungle 2000: Is America’s Meat Fit to Eat?” and “Hamburger Hell: The Flip Side of USDA’s Salmonella Testing Program.” She co-founded the Global Safe Food Alliance, which includes mad cow scaremongers like Public Citizen, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Organic Consumers Association, along with animal-rights groups like Farm Sanctuary, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, United Poultry Concerns, and the Humane Society of the United States. Nestor’s hysterical complaints about mad cow have turned up in The New York Times.

Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson — executive director and legal director of the Center for Food Safety. The Center for Food Safety (not to be confused with the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition) gets most of its money from the organic food industry and the lunatic Foundation for Deep Ecology.

Robert Cohen — an animal-rights radical who is convinced that cow’s milk is the root of all evil. Cohen warned cattlemen and dairy farmers that mad cow disease would be “a sign” that Americans should “reject your poisons.”