Following the so-called Mad Cow Disease crisis that plagued the UK and European beef industry following a 1996 outbreak, authors and investigative reporters Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber of PR Watch set out to determine how/if U.S. government officials were working to keep an outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy — and the fatal, infectious version called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease that can be passed to humans — from creating a similar financial and health disaster in the country.
Their resulting 1997 book ‘Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?‘ details their findings, which are not likely to inspire confidence in government practices and policies, or facilitate a craving for a slab of red meat. They wrote:
‘The more we looked into the mad cow crisis, the more fascinating it became. We knew that the issue was being monitored and managed by anxious officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the meat industry. Through a Freedom of Information Act investigation, we had obtained copies of risk assessments and a PR plan written by the USDA-plans which left us concerned that our own government was glossing over the dangers to U.S. consumers of a possible BSE outbreak here.’
Now with the recently confirmed case of Mad Cow Disease in the state of Washington, apparently originating from a herd in Canada, the authors are raising the alarm again that the potential for a serious outbreak is far greater than officials are telling the public. And they allege that the government’s failure to mandate adequate precautions in recent years has contributed directly to the recent incident.
So what do you do when the sudden demand for your previously released book outstrips the number of available copies, and time is of the essence for widely disseminating the results of a now-newsworthy investigation? The authors answer on the PR Watch Web site, which ‘which focuses on manipulative and misleading practices of the public relations industry,’ with the following note and related link:
‘Due to the USDA’s failure to keep the nightmare from happening here, demand for Mad Cow USA has outpaced supply. Our publisher is rushing to produce a paperback version. In the meantime, you can download a free PDF version of the entire book [PDF: 1.3 MB].’
In the book’s introduction they explain that it is ‘not a biology textbook or a dietary guide,’ but rather:
‘It is a book about politics and how it operates in the real world. It explains why and how government officials have placed concerns for the food industry over human health and welfare. In addition to telling the story of an exotic, mysterious and frightening disease, we have written this book to report on equally dangerous legal and political trends which threaten not only our physical health, but also our fundamental democratic rights to discuss and debate concerns about the food we eat, and to choose in the marketplace as informed, educated consumers.’