A beef with flea market coverage

Try this hypothetical. Let’s say the Independent has been at odds with someone for decades. Caught by the Indy in a repeat violation of rules, the person retaliates by accusing the paper in print of being motivated by institutional ethnic prejudice.

Surely the Independent would desire an opportunity to respond. Comment from a reporter would hardly suffice, given that, if taken seriously, the allegation calls into question the integrity of the Independent‘s entire operation. You would expect, perhaps demand, an opportunity for a policymaker such as the publisher or editor to directly address the charge.

This brings us to your June 27 story, “Buckhorn flea market fights closure,” in which Orange County government was subject to a baseless slur regarding its relations with the Hispanic community.

Orange County, among the most inclusive governments in this or any other state, deserved an opportunity for a policymaker, an elected official or the county manager to respond to the canard you blithely repeated. No such opportunity was afforded. You did quote a county employee in the article, but only on the latest round of rules violations.

Nor was Orange County’s integrity your only victim. When another spurious accusation was tossed at a business proximate to the flea market, there was no sign in the story that the owner was afforded the simply courtesy of a chance to reply.

Rudimentary journalism requires better balance than this. Certainly one expects more from the Independent.

Barry Jacobs

The writer is an Orange County Commissioner.

Pasteurization key to healthy milk

As a veterinarian regularly involved in caring for dairy cattle, I enjoyed your recent article “Drink it raw” (cover story, by Suzanne Nelson, June 20)though a deeper understanding of the history of veterinary public health might make your notion of a controlling dairy cartel seem far-fetched.

Nelson’s article serves as a sort of backhanded testimonial for the efforts of generations of diligent veterinary public health workers. Why are hunchbacks so frequently encountered in fairy tales and fiction but never seen in our world? Because we pasteurize our milk. Childhood tuberculosis, contracted by drinking milk from an infected cow, localizes in the growing bones, causing extreme scoliosis. Such affected children were once seen everywhere, and most large farm families might have at least one hunchback child.

Pasteurization has historically targeted two organisms that may infect and sicken people drinking seemingly normal milk from cows that look healthy. One disease, brucellosis, has been called undulant fever. The other is bovine tuberculosis, which is similar but not identical to human TB. Either disease can be chronic and debilitating.

Thanks to years of work by dairy farmers and veterinarians, we have virtually eliminated both of these diseases in the United States. These accomplishments rank among the major successes of veterinary public health in the 20th century. Brucellosis hasn’t appeared in North Carolina since the 1950s; TB has only flared up in three isolated instances since I began practice here in 1984. Thus, the risks associated with drinking raw milk, while low, are well-documented, while the benefits are largely unproven, albeit enthusiastically promoted. Nelson offers anecdotes, personal testimonials and 75-year-old published works. This seems pretty sketchy data to abandon a policy that has accomplished so much.

Clearly we need new and meaningful research. Such research would get a fair hearing among veterinarians, scientists and nutritionists … and if convinced, they could lead the way toward regulatory reform.

T.S. Redding III, D.V.M.