NAACP prepares to welcome Oprah to Amarillo
Oprah Talk Show To Move to Texas
Controversial gag order
Oprah's lawyers want gag order lifted
Oprah's mad cow trial starts Jan.20th in Texas
Cattlemen go after Oprah in mad cow disease trial
Survey to see if BSE has infected sheep
Glickman ridicules bone-in beef ban
Cow brains BSE risk bigger than first thought
End of subsidies in sight, minister warns farmers
Mystery disease in Kenya and Somalia may be anthrax
Large amounts of animal manure pose environmental risks
UPI US & World Sun, Jan 11, 1998AMARILLO, Texas -- The Amarillo chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is preparing (Sunday) to welcome Oprah Winfrey, after the city's Chamber of Commerce gave her the cold shoulder. Chapter president Alphonso Vaughn says members are "dismayed, shocked and mystified" by the chamber's rebuff of Winfrey, who is coming to Amarillo to fight a lawsuit brought by a beef producer over one of her shows.
AP Online Wed, Jan 7, 1998 By CLIFF EDWARDSCHICAGO -- Oprah Winfrey is taking her top-rated talk show to Texas during the time she is scheduled to defend herself in a federal defamation lawsuit brought by a group of cattlemen. Ms. Winfrey will tape episodes of the syndicated show in Amarillo, Texas, beginning Jan. 26, her production company said in a statement Wednesday.
The defamation trial against Ms. Winfrey, her production studio, distribution company and a one-time guest on her show is tentatively scheduled to begin Jan. 20. The lawsuit traces to April 16, 1996, when Howard Lyman, a consumer activist on meat issues, made comments on Ms. Winfrey's show that Amarillo cattle feeder Paul Engler considered defamatory.
Among other things, Lyman said "mad cow" disease in the United States "absolutely" could rival AIDS as an epidemic. After hearing some of Lyman's statements, Ms. Winfrey responded: "It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger. I'm stopped."
Engler and other plaintiffs who later joined the lawsuit claim the show was responsible for a steep drop in already slumping cattle prices. Engler's Cactus Feeders Inc. lost about $7 million during the spring '96 slump.
It was not clear how long tapings of the hour-long program would continue there, and spokeswoman Audrey Pass said Ms. Winfrey is prevented by a gag order from discussing when she might testify in the case. Topics for the shows have not been set, Ms. Pass said. She also could not speculate on whether the show would move if Ms. Winfrey's defense team wins a motion to move the case to Dallas, away from the world's largest concentration of cattle feeders.
Engler's lawsuit is based on a 1995 Texas law that protects agricultural products from slander. Twelve other states have similar laws, but Texas is the only state where Ms. Winfrey faces a challenge for the "mad cow" show. The cattlemen claim negative market reaction to the show cost them millions. Soon after the airing, Engler sued Ms. Winfrey, Harpo Productions, distributor King World Productions and Lyman.
"I asked questions that I think that the American people deserve to have answered in light of what is happening in Britain. We gave them (cattlemen) a chance to respond," she said in a statement at the time.Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, has not been reported in the United States. It is a brain-destroying malady that has ravaged cattle in Britain since the late 1980s, where it is believed to have been spread by cattle feed containing ground-up sheep parts.
No definitive links have been found between BSE and a human form of the illness in this country, although some British scientists say there is a link that has caused at least 23 deaths in Europe. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered an end to feeding livestock meat and bone meal to other livestock.
Sun, 4 Jan 1998 By Business Writer Cliff Edwards.The judge in the 'Oprah/Mad Cow' trial has imposed a highly unusual and controversial gag order on all parties. None of the attorneys, the defendants or plaintiffs or their representatives will be allowed to discuss the case until AFTER the jury verdict.
There will be a pre-trial conference this Tuesday, then opening arguments and jury selection begins Jan. 20th.
This trial will be the historic first constitutional test of the new 'food disparagement laws' that the food industry has introduced and lobbied into law in 13 states.
For information on the trial call the court in Amarillo, TX:
US District Court Judge Mary Lou Robinson Case #2-96-CV208 #806-324-2352For more information on the mad cow issue, food disparagement laws, and exactly what was said on the Oprah Show visit the PRWatch web site:
A Knight Ridder article by Aaron Epstein in the 12/31/97 Washington Post ('Ranchers' Beef With Oprah Winfrey, Guest Offers First Test of Food Defamation Law' pA12) says that the food industry is looking forward to a victory in the Oprah case and eager to use the laws in other states.
The Associated Press will apparently run a story on the trial Monday AM:
Jan. 5: CHICAGO -- Although no cases of "mad cow disease" have ever been documented in the United States, the question of whether an epidemic could strike is intriguing enough to be talk-show fodder. That's why Oprah Winfrey is expected to take the stand in a lawsuit brought against her by Texas cattlemen.
UPI US Tue, Jan 6, 1998AMARILLO, Texas -- Lawyers for television talk show host Oprah Winfrey are asking a federal judge to lift a gag order imposed on parties in a defamation lawsuit filed against her by a group of Texas cattlemen.
Lawyers for both sides are meeting privately in chambers today with U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson in Amarillo discussing pre-trial motions in the lawsuit scheduled to go to trial on Wednesday. Winfrey's attorneys have filed motions asking Robinson to lift the gag order or move the trial to Dallas because they say the sentiment in the Amarillo area is too favorable to the cattlemen's cause.
Amarillo cattleman Paul F. Engler and other cattle companies allege that a discussion of the U.S. threat of "mad cow" disease on a 1996 Winfrey show caused them to lose millions of dollars in beef sales. The lawsuit was filed under a relatively new Texas law intended to protect Texas agricultural products from false statements. Similar laws have been passed in 13 other states.
The lawsuit is in federal court because of the freedom of speech issues. Winfrey has denied the allegations and says the lawsuit threatens her rights under the First Amendment.
The other defendants include Winfrey's production company, Harpo Productions Inc.; the show's distributor, King World Productions Inc.; and talk-show guest Howard Lyman, a vegetarian activist who appeared on the 1996 show.
The other plaintiffs are Cactus Feeders Inc., Perryton Feeders Inc., Maltese Cross Cattle Co., Bravo Cattle Co., Alpha 3 Cattle Co., Dripping Springs Inc., and the Texas Beef Group.
Mon, 29 Dec 1997 John Stauber, editor, PR WatchDate: 22:57:21 -0500 A jury will decide the historic first test of 'food disparagement laws' versus the First Amendment and free speech rights The jury trial of Oprah Winfrey and her guest Howard Lyman for 'food disparagement' is now set to begin Jan. 20th in US District Court in Amarillo, Texas. All parties are under a gag order from the judge until the verdict is delivered. The trial is expected to last 3-6 weeks.
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey and her guest Howard Lyman will be in U.S. District Court in Amarillo, Texas on Jan. 20th defending their free speech rights against a novel lawsuit brought by Texas cattlemen. The cattlemen allege that an April 16, 1996, Oprah Winfrey Show violated a new Texas law forbidding 'food disparagement' when it aired a discussion of human deaths from British mad cow disease and related risks in the United States.
The offending program was in fact a serious, balanced debate among representatives of the meat industry, government and consumers. To read what Oprah and her guests said see PR Watch Vol.4,#2 which investigates industry censorship and provides the text of the offending remarks.
A nationally coordinated PR and lobby campaign by the food industry has succeeded in enacting food disparagement laws in thirteen states. The Oprah Winfrey trial will be the crucial first test of the constitutionality of the new laws.
Critics note that food disparagement laws undermine first amendment rights by shifting the burden of proof to those who discuss or investigate food issues. The laws enable industry to sue or intimidate anyone who speaks or writes about mad cow disease, e.coli deaths, salmonella poisoning, genetically engineered crops and animals, growth hormones, antibiotic drugs, factory farming, pesticides, toxins in fertilizer and other agricultural controversies.
PR Watch editors John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton view food disparagement laws as a dangerous threat to public health, food safety, free speech, open debate and the public's right-to-know. If someone as popular and powerful as Oprah Winfrey can be muzzled by the meat industry, what chance do 'typical' citizens and journalists have to fully exercise their first amendment rights?
Stauber and Rampton are authors of the new book Mad Cow U.S.A.: Could the Nightmare Happen Here? which examines in depth mad cow disease, the Oprah Winfrey case and food disparagement laws. Mad Cow U.S.A. can be ordered byemail.
January 4, 1998 By CLIFF EDWARDS, AP Business WriterCHICAGO -- Although mad cow disease has never been documented in the United States, Oprah Winfrey says she had every right to speculate on her show about the possibility of an outbreak in America. Texas cattlemen disagree, and on Tuesday jury selection begins in a trial to determine whether Winfrey defamed an entire industry when the disease was made fodder for her talk show.Cattlemen claim they lost millions of dollars because of the show. Oprah, her Harpo Productions Inc. and distributor King World Productions say the show was only keeping the public informed.
"I maintain my right to ask questions and to hold a public debate on issues that impact the general public and my audience," Winfrey said in a statement shortly after the show aired.Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a brain-destroying disease that has ravaged cattle in Britain since the late 1980s. It is believed to have been spread by cattle feed containing ground-up sheep parts, but it was not until 1996 that British scientists announced that humans may have contracted the disease by eating diseased beef.
During an "Oprah Winfrey Show" broadcast in April 1996, a guest said that feeding ground-up animal parts to cattle, which was being done at the time, could spread the disease to humans in the United States. To applause from the studio audience, Winfrey exclaimed: "It has just stopped me from eating another burger!" Cattle prices began to fall the day of the show and fell for two weeks before rising again. Amarillo cattle feeder Paul Engler was livid.
No case has ever been reported in the United States, although eating meat from cattle tainted by the disease is believed to have killed at least 20 people overseas, mostly in Britain. Engler, who said he lost $6.7 million because of the show, sued along with a dozen cattlemen under a 1995 Texas law that protects agricultural products from slander.
The federal lawsuit appears to be the biggest test yet of so-called "veggie libel" laws, which sprouted after a "60 Minutes" report in 1989 on the growth regulator Alar sent apple prices plummeting. Since then, 13 states have passed laws against falsely disparaging products. Winfrey's show came at a time when drought, high feed prices and oversupply were crippling cattlemen. England and Europe have been dealing with mad cow disease for several years, and the United States has been keeping an eye on the situation. In 1989, the United States banned imports of beef products from England because of the disease, but meat imports from continental Europe were allowed to continue.
Last June the United States banned the feeding of most animal parts to cattle, and in December  imports of cattle and sheep from Europe were banned. But slaughtered animal parts can still be fed to pigs, chicken, fish, pets and other animals in the United States, and those animals in turn can be processed into feed for cows. Dairy producer Bruce Krug of upstate New York believes the government and the beef industry need to stop the practice.
"We've got a potential disaster on our hands if we continue feeding animals back to animals," said Krug, who keeps 120 head of cattle in Constableville, about 40 miles north of Utica.
27 December Electronic Telegraph By David Brown, Agriculture EditorA nationwide questionnaire involving 3,500 UK farms to try to discover whether BSE has spread to sheep is to be undertaken in the New Year.
Universities, colleges and private companies have been invited by the Ministry of Agriculture to carry out a postal survey among farmers whose replies will remain anonymous and confidential. The ministry has advertised the survey as an exercise in establishing accurate figures on scrapie, the fatal brain disease of sheep that is believed to have caused BSE after cattle were fed on rations containing the contaminated remains of sheep.
But its veterinary scientists are trying to find out whether BSE has passed into sheep that were also fed the processed remains of sheep and cattle. The survey will seek information on reported and suspected scrapie cases on individual farms. The move follows calls from the European Commission's scientific steering committee on Dec 11 that mutton and lamb in countries such as Britain with a high incidence of BSE should be sold only off-the-bone.
In March last year, the Government's independent scientific advisers, the Spongiform Encephalopathies Advisory Committee, announced a possible link between BSE and a new variation, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, that has killed 23 people in Britain. Another victim is critically ill.
If BSE has been passed to sheep, this will pose new public health problems for ministers, who would have to consider further curbs on mutton and lamb when sheep farmers are already suffering an economic slump.
So far, there is no evidence but research has been limited. Some scientists and farmers want to see more brain checks carried out on sheep at abattoirs. Scrapie has been known for over 200 years but there is no record of it affecting humans. Some scientists believe that hundreds of thousands of sheep could be affected by scrapie, which is widespread in many other countries.
Commentary (JR Blanchfield):
"It should be noted that the author of that report was not the Science Editor but the Agriculture Editor. However, he appears to have got the EU scientists' proposal garbled.
As I understood it, the EU Scientific Steering Committee actually proposed that the intestines of bovines, sheep and goats of all ages and the lungs, vertebral column and dorsal root ganglia of these animals when more than 12 months old should be added to list of banned materials.
"The scientists suggested that these materials should be excluded from the food and feed chain if they do not originate in a BSE free country," the Commission said in a statement.
As I commented at the time, I wonder how the Commission is going to define a BSE-free country, and what level of proof of such supposed freedom they will require.
As a sample survey to indicate the incidence of scrapie, the questionnaire to farmers has some merit and is long overdue. Of course, scrapie has been a notifiable disease in the UK since 1 January 1993, under the Specific Diseases (Notification and Slaughter) Order, 1992. MAFF must therefore already have far more comprehensive data on the incidence of scrapie than could be obtained by as sample survey. This seems to suggest that the other (unstated) purpose is the sole purpose.
But the Telegraph headline and the phrasing of the opening paragraphs imply that the unstated purpose is to find out if "BSE has spread to sheep". It is, however, difficult to see how farmers' replies to the questionnaire will produce significant information in that respect.
Following the Foster et al (1996) paper in which oral challenge of six sheep with 50 ml of 1 percent of homogenate from a pool of four brains of BSE-confirmed cows (equivalent to 0.5 g of brain per sheep) resulted in one sheep succumbing, with an incubation period of 734 days, the concern was whether BSE had in fact spread to sheep but had not been observed through being masked by scrapie. What seems to be needed is an extended programme of strain-typing of brain material from scrapie infected sheep."
December 28, 1997 By KARIN DAVIES, Associated Press WriterNAIROBI, Kenya -- An mystery disease that has caused scores of Kenyans, Somalis and livestock to bleed to death this month may be a form of anthrax, medical experts said Sunday. "At the moment, the evidence that we have agrees the most with an outbreak of anthrax," said Dr. Douglas Klaucke, acting World Health Organization representative in Kenya. The evidence includes symptoms -- high fever, diarrhea, intestinal problems, vomiting blood -- that are similar to those of intestinal anthrax, a rare manifestation of the illness that causes stomach ulcers and inflames the intestines.
Another sign that anthrax may be to blame is that the disease can be contracted by eating undercooked, infected meat -- a common practice in Somalia and Kenya, where recent flooding has marooned thousands of people who are eating carcasses of sick animals, Klaucke said. The tentative anthrax diagnosis has not been confirmed by tests, Klaucke said. Kenyan laboratories were awaiting the delivery of medical supplies needed to test specimens for the disease. Specimens also have been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and Fort Collins, Colo., and the National Institute of Virology in Johannesburg, South Africa, Klaucke said.
Local reports say up to 245 people and hundreds of camels, goats and sheep have died from the mystery disease in flooded villages in northeastern Kenya. But doctors have only confirmed three deaths in Kenya because they were unable to collect blood and stool samples from most of the victims before they died. Across the border in Somalia, the Red Cross has confirmed the deaths of 42 people from similar symptoms. Local leaders put the figure at 300 people, plus hundreds of livestock. Twelve possible diseases are being investigated, including yellow fever and dengue. Ebola, which also causes its victims to bleed from the mouth and other orifices, tentatively has been ruled out.
December 28, 1997 By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press WriterDES MOINES, Iowa -- The huge amount of animal waste produced on American farms often pollutes water, and the risk is growing as more large-scale livestock operations take hold, according to a new U.S. Senate study. The study found that the amount of animal manure produced in the United States is 130 times greater than the amount of human waste, and there are no national standards for dealing with the animal waste.
For example, a single 50,000-acre hog farm being built in Utah could potentially put out more waste than the city of Los Angeles, the study said.
The report is scheduled to be released later this week, but copies were distributed to reporters by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who called it "the first comprehensive report to illustrate the magnitude of environmental problems caused by animal waste." The study was compiled by the Democratic staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Harkin is the ranking Democrat on that committee.
The study said the nation's agricultural officials consider 60 percent of rivers and streams "impaired," with agricultural runoff the largest contributor to that pollution. Last year alone, more than 40 animal waste spills killed 670,000 fish in Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri, the study said. That was up from 20 spills in 1992.
Harkin used the study to support his push for national environmental standards for livestock producers. He and other supporters want Congress to impose national standards so states won't undercut each other in an effort to lure the livestock industry. Farm groups have been leery of new regulations.
The report also noted that the rise of large-scale livestock operations -- a growing trend among meat producers -- has greatly increased the risk of waste spills, because the large farms produce more waste than can be spread over nearby cropland. Over the last 15 years, the number of hog farms nationally has dropped to 157,000 from about 600,000, but the overall output of hogs has increased.
PA News Sun, Jan 4, 1998 By James LyonsCow brains eaten at the height of the BSE epidemic may have put many more people at risk of infection than was previously thought, an expert said today. Research commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food suggests many more people ate brains during the height of the BSE scare than had been realised.
The report, drawn up by scientists at Leatherhead Food Research Laboratory and the Meat and Livestock Commission, says up to 200,000 ox brains a year were sold as food during the 1980s. It also concluded tongue sold in butchers shops and beef blood used as fertiliser could have been infected.
Co-author Dr Bob Hart told PA News:
"It is safe to say that considerable numbers of brains were being sold in the Eighties, although we need to check the figures. Certainly at the beginning of the Eighties there was very little risk but in the period between the emergence of BSE and the banning of brains from the human food chain there is a risk of infection. I think the scale of brain consumption was not appreciated by the Ministry of Agriculture."Butchers across the UK questioned for the survey said many customers cooked the brain to make a pate-like spread which would be eaten on toast before they were banned from sale in 1989. A spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission said steps taken to restrict the spread of BSE since 1986 meant the risk to those who had eaten brains was minimal.
He said: "The number of brains sold at that time is more or less right but the number that would have had any health risks for humanity would have been a very, very small percentage of that." A spokeswoman for Maff disputed the figures and said more research was needed to fully evaluate the numbers put at risk by eating brains.
"We are not entirely happy that the report is accurate in terms of the numbers," she said. "This is one of the issues which will be examined by the BSE inquiry." The report also suggest the practice of "pithing" -- mashing the brain with a flexible rod to stop an unconscious animal kicking out -- could have increased the risk of blood and tongue becoming infected. Dr Hart said:
"Before an animal is killed it is stunned, usually by shooting a bolt through its head, and in some cases a flexible metal rod is put through and used to destroy the nerve endings. "After this the animal is hung upside-down and this could have led to brain matter leaking and contaminating the blood and tongue."The risk of tongue becoming infected in this way was reduced by the 1996 ban on removal of meat from the head of the animal -- excluding the tongue Dr Hart said.
There were fears that sheep and cows could have grazed on land fertilised with beef blood which may have become infected. "I must stress that these things are possible rather than say they have happened," he said. Although bone meal was banned from fertiliser since 1996 Maff says the risk of brain matter re-entering the food chain through blood used in fertiliser is "minute".
January 7 1998 BY MICHAEL HORNSBY The TimesJACK CUNNINGHAM, the Agriculture Minister, faced stony silence from farmers and was given a stinging rebuke by their leader yesterday when he told them to prepare for a life without subsidy. Dr Cunningham also warned farmers not to expect extra aid for the time being for the hard-pressed beef industry.
His speech, heard in silence by several hundred delegates at the annual Oxford Farming Conference, provoked a sharp exchange with Sir David Naish, the out-going president of the National Farmers' Union. Rising immediately after Dr Cunningham had finished speaking, Sir David said: "I am heartily sick of being told that farmers must be competitive when we are not being given equal terms of trade."
He called on Dr Cunningham to apply for the £980 million to which Britain's farmers believe they are entitled under European Union rules over the next three years to compensate them for the strong pound. If not applied for by the middle of this month, the first instalment may be forfeited.
Dr Cunningham retorted: "It is not simply a question of writing a cheque and picking up some free money from Brussels." Half the compensation would be paid for fully by the British taxpayer and, under EU budget rules, so would 71 per cent of the other half.
In a wide-ranging speech, and in answer to questions afterwards, Dr Cunningham promised to be an impartial chairman of meetings of EU farm ministers during the six months of the British presidency, which began on January 1. This did not prevent him making his strongest attack since taking office on the common agricultural policy.
"Every year we in the EU spend about £30 billion on the CAP," he said. "It infuriates farmers, it angers environmentalists and it upsets consumers. You have got to be pretty stupid to go on spending that amount of money every year, and ending up infuriating everyone and pleasing almost no one."Dr Cunningham forecast that, within ten years, agricultural production would no longer be subsidised. The only support available would be where certain types of farming were needed to preserve the rural environment. Two forces above all, he said, made CAP reform inevitable: pressure from the World Trade Organisation for the removal of subsidies, and the enlargement of the EU to 21 or more member states, many of them former communist countries.
Extending the CAP in its present form to these countries would not only be catastrophically expensive. It would also force them to accept a bureaucratic system "reminiscent of the old command economy that they have so recently and painfully shaken off".
Dr Cunningham was scathing about some of the reforms proposed by Franz Fischler, the European Agriculture Commissioner, who is to address the conference today. In particular, he attacked plans for limiting subsidies to smaller farms.
If this concept were applied crudely across the EU, it would penalise British farms, which on average were two to three times the size of those on the Continent. British agriculture was tough and resilient and would benefit from the withdrawal of subsidy, and the ending of artificial constraints, such as milk quotas, which prevented efficient producers taking their share of growing world markets.
Dr Cunningham promised to work for improved animal welfare across the EU, in particular for the phasing out of battery cages for hens. This prompted a speaker from the floor to accuse the minister of caring more for the welfare of animals than the welfare of farmers.
Dr Cunningham responded angrily that he had represented farmers for 28 years in his Cumbrian constituency. He knew that the poorest farmers there were scarcely better off now than they had been when he first became an MP, despite all the subsidies.
BY MICHAEL HORNSBY January 8 1998 TimesBRITAIN'S decision to ban beef on the bone because of a possible risk of contamination with "mad cow" disease was ridiculed by a senior member of the United States Administration yesterday.
Dan Glickman, the US Agriculture Secretary, cited the ban as an example of overreaction to health scares that had brought the European Union and the United States to the verge of a trade war.
Speaking at the annual Oxford Farming Conference, Mr Glickman said: "I was heartened recently to see British consumers recognise that things are getting out of hand. When the Government banned bone-in beef there was a rush on butcher's shops to stock up before the ban went into effect. Consumers were on the news saying, 'They've gone too far'. These kinds of actions leave a strong perception in the United States that here in the EU legitimate public food safety concerns are being manipulated for political purposes. As traditional trade barriers begin to disappear, we owe it to consumers to see that food safety does not become a new trade battleground."
Mr Glickman's remarks drew loud cheers from several hundred farmers and representatives of the food retail industry, who on Tuesday had given a distinctly frosty reception to Jack Cunningham, the Agriculture Minister. Mr Glickman's comments formed part of a stern warning that the EU would be heading for a trade war with the US if it carried out a threat to ban the import of billions of dollars worth of American cosmetics and pharmaceuticals because they contain tallow, a biproduct of the cattle industry.
The EU argues that the ban - originally to have come into force on January 1 but postponed for three months - is justified because the United States cannot prove that it is free of BSE, which has killed 170,000 British cattle. Some 22 people have died from a new strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human equivalent of BSE, which is thought to have been acquired by eating contaminated meat. Mr Glickman said: "The threatened ban is based on the assumption that the United States may have BSE which may get into tallow which may harm a person. Each of these assumptions is vigorously disputed by the scientific facts, including those of the European Commission's own scientists."
Terry Medley, Director of the US Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, who accompanied Mr Glickman to Oxford, said the EU must grant the US BSE-free status. "Our surveillance and data show that the US is entitled to this status," he said.