Clogged arteries. Global warming. Animal cruelty. Mad cow disease. Salmonella. Manure lagoons. Overgrazing.
These are just some of the public relations problems faced by the meat, dairy, and egg industries.
Now add animal cloning to the brew. Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration—defying the wishes of Congress to slow the approval process—cleared the way for meat and milk from cloned farm animals and their offspring to be sold for human consumption. This follows closely on the heels of a similar decision by European authorities.
The FDA did so despite more than 30,000 public comments opposing the action. And reputable polls of the American population reveal that two-thirds of respondents oppose animal cloning.
The Humane Society of the United States has criticized the FDA for failing to take into account the animal welfare implications of the process.
What amazes me most is that the meat and dairy industries haven’t even been clamoring for cloning opportunities, yet we are on the cusp of commercial sale of these products. It’s been venture biotech companies, and their allies in the for-profit branch of academia, that have been doing harm to animals and developing clones as the latest new money-making scheme and as the latest jolt to traditional American agriculture.
Why the FDA and USDA are actively supporting this move is mystifying. Why, with all of the public relations challenges they face, would they want to weaken consumer confidence in animal products?
But it’s par for the course for bureaucrats and industry leaders who think in narrow, reductionist terms. I always wondered why the meat industry and its allies in government allowed downed cows—those too sick or injured to walk—to be channeled into the food supply. There were perhaps 200,000 downer cows being slaughtered for human consumption, out of 35 million cattle sent to slaughter. It seemed like penny-wise, pound-foolish conduct, and after the mad cow disease case in Washington state in December 2003, that view was validated. More than 40 nations closed their markets to American beef after a BSE-positive downer was ground up and the animals’ parts scattered into the food supply.
Now, the animal agribusiness industries are charging forward again, despite the obvious risks to their industry and the deep-seated skepticism of the American public. You can be sure that The HSUS won’t sit on the sidelines as the debate advances.