As if Americans don’t have enough to worry about right now, the approximately 15,000,000 viewers of NBC’s “The West Wing” last night were treated to a scare plotline in which so-called “mad cow” disease is discovered in the United States.



Whether intended or not, the show is participating in the new American scare campaign that is mad cow. Organic groups hope to frighten consumers to avoid conventional meat and “go organic.” Organic Consumers Association president Ronnie Cummins has openly hoped that a U.S. mad-cow epidemic — and the resulting “crisis of confidence” in American food — will lead to a “new era of sustainable living” and a nationwide “transition to organic farming.” Organic marketers aren’t the only ones trying to profit off mad cow. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently “sanctioned Disease Sciences, Inc.,” which has made mad cow diagnostic claims, for promoting technology that “was never tested, licensed or shown to have any ‘practical or economic uses,'” Newsday reports.



Anti-meat zealots link Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a devastating disease known to American doctors for over a century, to the medically similar mad cow disease, which has never appeared in the United States. They have even claimed that mad cow is already present in the U.S. food supply. But even in Europe, where mad cow has appeared, a new computer model suggests “the peak of the epidemic has passed” and that cases will decline after this year. The “worst of mad cow may be over,” the Associated Press writes.



“The West Wing” got one thing right: A U.S. mad cow hysteria would ruin farmers and businesses, devastate the economy, and put millions out of work. Maybe that’s why popular television shows shouldn’t irresponsibly frighten consumers.