Mad Cow Update

As I’ve said before, it’s worth listening to what scientists say. I’m willing to listen when the Professors Kim of Hallim University say that their research findings have been wrongfully exaggerated by those who oppose US beef.

Others online have pointed out how unfortunate (yes, truly) it is that Koreans aren’t (yet) up in arms about other issues that need serious attention, from traffic fatalities to avian influenza — which is true, and I really wish people were. We’ve got H5CN1 in the neighborhood now. (To that I’d add reforming police service, which right now is almost as useless as not having police, since you can’t actually count on them for anything, and sensible educational reforms.)

The most reassuring data is the scarcity of Americans infected with CJD or vCJD as far as we know. However, I still get the feeling that the American beef industry has enough problems that a totally-open import policy like the one Lee has offered is a bad idea: lots of countries have issues with it, not just Korea, think so, since in parts of the US there are feed practices in use that are banned in Britain because of the mad cow & CJD/vCJD outbreak. That’s a scary precedent, and I don’t think anyone should risk another outbreak like that in Britain. (And since it takes so long for infected people to start showing symptoms, we wouldn’t know about for some years, or decades, yet.)

Still, if the Korean government were to adjust to standards that are more like those imposed in other countries importing beef from the US, then I’d be more willing to relax… though I still would be leery. But I think it would be unreasonable if Koreans were against taking the kinds of risks that European countries are willing to bear, for example.

(Though, still, if enough people oppose it, I don’t support mocking them for it. People should be able to choose which risks their societies take, since after all dealing with the future is in part a dice roll. Caution can often be a virtue when dealing with things like disease outbreaks and new technologies. And no, I’m not Amish.)

That’s the last of what I have to say on the issue for now, but Mongdori has a somewhat disturbing video of a taekwondo fight with a cow that, whatever you think about the issue, is just bizarre to watch.

UPDATE (9 May 2008): Baedol has a good post up that describes the basic pros and cons, doesn’t gloss over the big question marks in the science, doesn’t defend the fake claims made about vCJD and the Beef Scare here, yet also points out (a fair number, but not all) of the political issues that have sent Koreans to the streets. Pretty much everything rings true in that post, except my impression is that MBM isn’t being fed to Korean cattle. They’re still full of the same drugs and hormones and crap as every other cow in the industrialized world, though.

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