A vegetarian activist being sued with Oprah Winfrey testified Friday that he didn’t have an agenda to get people to stop eating beef when he appeared on her talk show.
Under questioning by a lawyer for Texas cattlemen, Howard Lyman said he went on the show “to express my opinion on the mad cow disease and the circumstances surrounding it.”
When the attorney, David Mullin, asked him if he intended to sway people against eating beef, Lyman said, “I raise the issue with individuals about their diet and what they’re eating, but I do not tell people not to eat beef.”
Cattlemen who are suing Lyman, Winfrey, and her production company claim remarks made on an “Oprah” show titled “Dangerous Foods” forced already slumping beef prices to 10-year lows within a week after the show aired in April 1996.
They claim reassuring pro-beef comments were edited out of the show. The cattlemen are suing under a state law that protects agricultural products from false and defamatory remarks.
Lyman said on the air that eating beef tainted with mad cow disease could spread the human version - Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Asked if the spread of mad cow disease could make AIDS seem like the common cold, Lyman responded: “Absolutely.”
Further, the former cattle rancher said that processed livestock was being fed to cattle, which could spread mad cow disease in the United States. Winfrey responded by swearing off hamburgers.
Under questioning from cattlemen’s attorney Joe Coyne, Lyman was asked what facts he used to back up his claim.
Lyman, who acknowledged he was not an animal scientist and had never formally studied mad cow disease, said it was merely his opinion based on his experience working for 18 years as a cattle rancher in Montana and research he did on his own.
Lyman, who has yet to face questions from his own attorneys, also testified that even members of his own family think he’s “a nut.”