In a document submitted to the Diet on Nov. 18 upon formal Cabinet approval, the government had pledged to send officials to check U.S. meet processors prior to resuming beef imports in December.
Without notifying the Diet, however, the government postponed the dispatch of officials to the United States, claiming it was found that inspections before imports were resumed would be impractical.
Nakagawa has been under fire from opposition parties for changing the dispatch plan without informing the Diet.
Now, I don’t often side with the GOJ on the beef issue. And I don’t know the details of what actually happened leading up to the government’s decision to postpone the dispatch of inspectors. However, it seems that Nakagawa might have been in an even worse pinch had inspectors been sent prior to the discovery of spinal matter in imported beef last month.
Sending inspectors to U.S. meat-processing facilities would have amounted to nothing more than a symbolic gesture at best. It would have been a signal to the Japanese public that the government is taking this problem seriously. But let’s face it – a few Japanese inspectors would not have prevented the gross negligence on the part of the United States that resulted in the re-imposition of the beef ban.
Their presence would, however, have distributed some of that negligence towards the Japanese government. Opposition parties, always eager to sink their teeth into LDP hide, would have then dismissed the government’s inspection measures as ineffective.
In hindsight, one has to ask which is worse for the government: having hidden the decision to delay sending the inspectors and having some spinal material show up in an imported veal shipment, or having sent the inspectors only to have the effort proven completely unsuccessful?