Remain calm over U.S. beefSome civilian activist groups are poised to reignite candlelight vigil protests against the import of U.S. beef that evolved into nationwide antigovernment rallies in 2008. An anti-mad-cow-disease action group and the National Organization Against the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement declared that they will hold a large-scale rally in the plaza in front of Seoul City Hall on May 2, the fourth anniversary of the anti-U.S. beef movement.
Protestors of the mad-cow scare four years ago repeated groundless rumors that the odds of Americans catching a fatal brain disease from eating contaminated beef were 38 percent, while the chances for Koreans were as high as 95 percent. It is obvious that some are attempting to exploit the news for political purposes.
The Democratic United Party and the Unified Progressive Party as well as civilian groups are demanding an immediate ban on U.S. beef. Some in the ruling Saenuri Party and presidential office are also advising the suspension of market distribution in fear of another vigil protest. But the latest report of a single dairy cow in California should not raise any safety fears or political and social unrest. There are no grounds for concern regarding the import of American beef and any protests will only unnecessarily aggravate the situation.
The rate of cow infections has no unique connection with American livestock. Other countries - Japan, Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong and members of the E.U. - that import the same type of beef from the U.S. do not consider any moves to restrict imports. Consumers there are unaffected by the news in California after U.S. authorities assured that the animal had not been slaughtered for food and animals born in the same farm have been thoroughly tested. We do not need to overreact to the news.
We have become sensitive to news about American beef. The government’s poor response to the spread of rumors and the anti-U.S. beef campaign four years ago also added to the public’s suspicion. Authorities reversed their position on the ban several times and released unconfirmed data. The majority of the population have so far remained calm and are awaiting government measures. Many still remember how exhausting and damaging the hype around the groundless rumors and blind opposition had been. The government should also recover fast from the psychological trauma from the vigil protests and react firmly and resolutely against political exploitation. It should have more trust in the maturity and judgment of the people.