The New York Times has legitimized Tom Pringle, self-proclaimed mad cow disease expert, with a “Q&A” interview. If you don’t know who this guy is, take a spin through Mad Cow: A New American Scare Campaign. As far as the Times is concerned, Pringle is a mild-mannered scientist offering thoughtful commentary; what it isn’t telling its readers about him, though, speaks volumes.

Prior to the inheritance that allowed him to set up the Sperling Biomedical Foundation, Pringle worked for two Oregon environmental groups. He is also a strict vegan who eats only organic foods and recently told Eugene Weekly that he considers himself an environmental activist. Pringle actually used members of Earth First!, a militant environmental group with a long history of violence, to carry out the recent remodeling of his home. When he isn’t busy with his mad cow web site, he uses the Sperling Foundation to support wetlands issues and disseminate anti-biotechnology information. The only other person on Sperling’s staff (besides Pringle and his brother) is Doug Heiken, who doubles as regional director of a activist group called the Oregon Natural Resources Council.

Perhaps most telling is this: when Environmental Media Services (Fenton Communications’ media arm) compiled a list of mad cow “experts” to share with reporters and broadcasters, Pringle made the final cut. And he’s in interesting company too, listed just beneath John Stauber, whose book Mad Cow U.S.A. set new standards for food scare tactics.