Last year the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), a small group of dissident cattle ranchers, joined assorted mad-cow-disease scaremongers like Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen and Consumers Union at a joint press conference to claim that North American beef was “unsafe.” When the same group successfully sued the federal government last month, temporarily blocking the U.S. from importing Canadian cattle (again citing mad cow disease as a pretext), naked self-interest and trade protectionism were widely cited as its real motivation. The question was left hanging: Did R-CALF care more about food safety or the profits of its members? We now have the answer.

The Canadian Press (CP) reported yesterday that three U.S. ranchers who were “significant contributors” to R-CALF’s litigation fund — the same money that forced the USDA to keep Canadian cows north of the border — quietly “bought up cheap cows in Canada after the devastating ban” was reinforced by the court last week.

CP reporter Beth Gorham’s story continues:

Some in Canada are furious, saying R-CALF members have exploited a crisis they helped to create. “It’s not illegal but their ethics are terrible,” said Ontario beef producer John Lunn from Norwood. “I’ve had enough. I have no use for these guys.” Rick Paskal, a feedlot owner in Lethbridge, Alberta, said group members “recognized an opportunity for their own personal economic gain. They were absolutely not concerned about food safety.”

We can all savor this irony. While R-CALF continues to argue that lifting the ban on Canadian cattle imports would expose Americans to an unnecessary risk — the group has even called for the border to be sealed to live cattle for seven years — its most prominent members appear perfectly willing to embrace that “risk” if it comes attached to a paycheck.