A silver lining, perhaps?The U.S. Department of Agriculture is deciding how many Washington state herds will be destroyed because of exposure to mad cow disease.

"It would be safe to assume that ... some or all of those animals will need to be sacrificed," said Dr. Ron DeHaven, the department's chief veterinarian. At least three herds are at risk, he said, but other cows may be "sacrificed" as well.

Destroying animals with even the potential of carrying the mad cow proteins is important step to reassure the public that its food supply is safe. The destruction of cattle is much more about perception than it is to combat the disease. The government wants to react swiftly to show the public it knows what to do. Yet so far the government's reaction raises more questions than answers. (Some feel) the U.S. Department of Agriculture is more worried about the prosperity of the beef industry than it is in substantive reform. Instead of learning from other nations' experiences with mad cow disease, the United States is repeating their mistakes (critics say).

Washington Gov. Gary Locke called on the federal government to do more, such as testing all cows too sick to stand on their own. We agree - and the testing program should be broad.

Many nations already test healthy cattle for the disease. Europe checks one of every four cows or more than a million cows a month; in Japan every cow is routinely tested. Perhaps the silver lining in this mad cow episode stems from the economic consequences. Beef is a big business - and the very fear of a tainted product will open up new markets for producers distributing cattle that are fed old-fashioned, organic ingredients.

- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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