BEEF BLUES

 
Published: Thursday 31 July 1997

In the first case of its kind, a US rancher has sued Oprah Winfrey, the popular talk show hostess, alleging that her broadcast of April 16, 1996 had cost him US $6.7 million in lost sales of beef. A recently passed law in 13 US states gives cattle-ranchers and farmers the right to seek treble damages if someone suggests that a crop or product is unsafe for consumption. The show centred around the issue of mad-cow disease and more than 15 million viewers were given a detailed explanation by a cattle-rancher who had turned vegetarian, about how cows were routinely fed on ground-up bits of other cows which could lead to a plague in humans that could "make AIDS look like the common cold". The rancher said that the show did not give representatives of the beef industry and the department of agriculture a chance to counter these arguments.

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