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25 July 2009 - Unintended Consequences Can Harm

"Unintended consequences". That's a term that was used a few days ago by Gary Voogt, the President of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, when I interviewed him at the Summer Cattle Conference in Denver, Colorado. We were talking about C.O.O.L., Country of Origin Labeling. Gary is not a big fan of C.O.O.L and said when it comes to reading labels, he's not convinced that many consumers take the time to do it. If they do read the label on a package of beef in the supermarket meat counter, he said they will find that 90% of it is labeled "U.S.Beef."

He said, on the other hand, it has created some trade problems for us. Pointing out that Canada and Mexico, who are large buyers of American beef, now look at country-of-origin labeling as an artificial trade barrier and are filing complaints with the World Trade Organization. That, he said, is an unintended consequence of C.O.O.L.

That got me to thinking about other examples of unintended consequences and one jumped out immediately. The people who succeeded in passing legislation to ban the slaughter of horses in this country thought it would improve conditions for aging horses and keep them from "suffering an inhumane death" in a slaughter plant. Yes, death in any form is unpleasant, but look at how these horses now die; turned loose by owners who can no longer afford to keep or feed them or dispose of their carcasses, these horses are now subjected to disease and predators and ultimately die of starvation in the countryside. With the tough economy today, more owners are turning their horses loose, to the point that horse shelters are filled to capacity. So, backers of the bill, tell me which is better for the aging horse, humane slaughter in a plant regulated by USDA inspectors or starvation in the country. I know which answer I support and to me, this is one more example of an unintended consequence. I might add...I haven't heard any of the Hollywood stars who supported the bill volunteer to spend their millions to take care of abandoned horses.

Finally, I asked you to share with me your feelings "for" or "against" on the National Animal Identification issue; I'm hearing from a lot of you and I will be sharing many of those quotes in an upcoming column.

I do have a request of a few of you; watch your language. There is more than one side to this issue and you don't have to use strong language to disagree with me. I respect your position and I ask that you respect mine. I am not "stupid" or "in the pocket of corporations or government", or the unprintable words that some of you used. I think we need to mind our manners and whether it's me or other media people, to have your opinions heard and seriously considered, it helps if those opinions are voiced in a civilized manner. Otherwise, you may find yet another "unintended consequence."

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.