R-CALF found itself in the unenviable position last month of having to defend anti-beef groups in the wake of widespread criticism of its May 26 press event in Washington, D.C. During that event, which R-CALF held in tandem with Ralph Nader's Public Citizen group, Carol Tucker Foreman's Consumer Federation Of America, and the Consumers Union, the four groups denounced USDA's handling of the BSE situation, questioned the safety of beef, and called for government hearings on the matter.

In a letter circulated a few days after the press event, and presumably alluding to an article in the May 28 issue of BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly that criticized R-CALF for holding hands with the anti-meat activist groups, R-CALF patriarch Leo McDonnell struck out against industry criticism of what he charitably called “consumer groups.”

“Attacking our nation's (sic) largest consumer groups, such as the Consumer Federation of America and the Consumer Union, with these kinds of hateful undertones undermines the hundred of millions of dollars U.S. cattle producers have invested to improve demand and improve consumer relationships,” McDonnell wrote in his open letter.

To R-CALF, it's apparently only acceptable to trash your own family in public. Yet, the logic of McDonnell's charge is so blatantly perverse, it frankly leaves us speechless.

For the record, here is a short bio on each of the groups whose sensibilities McDonnell is apparently so wary of offending:

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) opposes irradiation for food safety and has pushed for the reduction of beef in the school lunch program. CFA's founder, Carol Tucker Foreman, is well known for her anti-beef rhetoric and efforts to stir up hysteria about the safety of our product.

    Tucker Foreman oversaw food safety and nutrition programs for Pres. Jimmy Carter. The 1977 release of the “Dietary Goals for the U.S.” served as a wellspring of negative sentiment against the beef industry, of which a key element of advice was “Decrease consumption of meat, and increase consumption of poultry and fish.” As USDA assistant secretary, Tucker Foreman was one of the biggest proponents of the Dietary Goals.

  • The Consumers Union (CU) and CFA have been two of the leading groups pushing since Dec. 23, 2003, the message that beef is unsafe. CU and its leader, Michael Hansen, have also led the crusade against biotechnology and genetically modified organisms.

    In fact, former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop once referred to Hansen's rhetoric this way: “Unfortunately, a few fringe groups are using misleading statements and blatant falsehoods as part of a long-running campaign to scare consumers about a perfectly safe food … it is necessary to condemn these attacks … for what they are: baseless, manipulative and completely irresponsible.”

  • Then there's Public Citizen (PC), which gains its supposed credibility through founder Ralph Nader. But PC is best known for its membership in the Global Safe Food Alliance, formed by such animal rights organizations as Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Farm Sanctuary, etc., to put out anti-meat messages. If you want more information on PC, just go to its Web site at www.citizen.org, check out the “Meatrix” at www.themeatrix.com or the report “Jungle 2000” at www.whistleblower.org/uploads/The%20Jungle%202000%20-.PDF.

It's unfortunate that R-CALF leadership doesn't attach a similar level of respect and sensitivity toward the beef industry and the hardworking folks who are a part of it by more carefully selecting its comrades-in-arms. Crawling into bed with those who have long and openly campaigned for the beef industry's demise just to promote your agenda doesn't benefit anyone but the anti-meat groups, which likely gained considerable credibility as “consumer groups” as a result of the act.

In R-CALF's Washington love fest with the anti-meat groups, only the beef industry got screwed.