Big news: mad cow scares aren’t big news any more. Last night Reuters reported that out of The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, only the Journal thought Monday’s confirmation of a third case of mad cow was worth covering on its front page. Given that newspapers make their money by printing the news people care about, it seems like Americans simply don’t care to read about the incidence of an incredibly rare and slow-moving disease in cows. Who can blame them? After all, mad cow poses a tiny risk to human beings.
Of course, this non-news hasn’t stopped activists from trying to exploit an opportunity to push their own agendas. Wayne Pacelle, the vegan who heads the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), condemned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for failing to enact hysterical new restrictions on livestock farming. Never one to miss a publicity stunt, today People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had some of its frequently naked activists actually put on additional clothes — biohazard suits — to hand out “emergency vegetarian starter kit” propaganda.
Many activists are trying to do the same thing with bird flu. Neal “I’m not a nutritionist, but I play one on letterhead” Barnard from the PETA-affiliated Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is traveling across the continent exhorting people to stop eating chicken if they want to avoid bird flu. (Never mind that cooking chicken will kill the virus, and that modern poultry farms can easily quarantine and contain any flock should birds start turning up sick.) HSUS, meanwhile, is using bird flu as an opportunity to call for all sorts of additional regulations that would achieve animal-rights objectives while masquerading as firewalls against bird flu.