LETTER: Diet of untruths?

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From Mr J. A. Shelley

Sir: As a linguist concerned with the influence of language on cultural behaviour, I have an observation regarding the genesis of the current BSE controversy.

It is widely acknowledged that the bovine form of this disease originated with the feeding to cattle of products composed largely of the remains of other animals. It is noteworthy that these potentially, and now actually, controversial feedstuffs were commonly marketed under such descriptive names as "meal", "nuts" and "cake", all terms which stress a lack of any relation to meat or animal products. It seems likely that the manufacturers of these feeds were at least aware of possible public disgust, if not potential risks, involved in feeding products containing processed carcasses to animals biologically adapted to consume only vegetable matter.

Interested parties - and one might include political parties - are all too often tempted to abuse language for their own ends. Members of the public would do well to be aware of this when making vital judgements concerning their own health.

Yours faithfully,

J. A. Shelley

Cupar, Fife