Mad About Mad Cow

Will U.S. beef-eaters panic?

Mad cow disease has finally arrived in stateside feedlots. Over the weekend, U.S. officials confirmed a Holstein cow in Washington state, which had been slaughtered in early December, was infected with the disease. As officials race to track down the meat and test other cattle for mad cow, which can cause a gruesome, brain-eating illness in humans who consumed bad beef, one wonders if U.S. consumers will forswear hamburgers and hot dogs. In 2001, Slate’s David Plotz assessed the disease and the pandemonium it has wreaked throughout Europe, primarily Britain. And the panic was for good reason: “Mad cow is similarly vicious, unstoppable, and mysterious. It murders by driving its young victims insane, then melting their brains. It theoretically puts anyone who ever ate English beef at risk. It was spawned in the miasma of rendering plants and slaughterhouses, our own hell’s kitchens. And the disease organism is a mystery.”