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Mad Cow Disease
Publish date: Jun 27, 2009
Summary: Mad cow disease is just another reason to avoid meat consumption.
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Never before in human history has the meat consumed been as contaminated, infected, and diseased as it is in the present day. There are several serious matters relating to meat eating, most particularly the diseases contracted.
Heart disease, the nation’s number one killer, is mostly related to a diet rich in meat and other animal products. There are many other diseases such as cancer that in a great deal owe their existence to the consumption of meat and other animal products. As Thomas Moffett said, “Men dig their graves with their own teeth and die more by those fated instruments than by the weapons of their enemies.”
Shock waves went through the world on Wednesday, March 20, 1996 when a group of prestigious British scientists revealed that mad cow disease was likely being transmitted to humans. The British meat industry came to a virtual standstill, English folk became vegetarians and the European Union banned British beef.
Since that time, autopsies of cattle dying with mad cow disease revealed a nervous system infection that ate tiny holes in the brain, which then actually looked like a sponge. This appearance gave the disease its name, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, more commonly known as mad cow disease
Infected, formerly docile cows, develop mental deterioration and behavioral abnormalities, becoming irritable, nervous, or aggressive, losing weight and developing severe coordination problems before they die. This of course, has been a terrible tragedy for the cattle population, and is also fearful because BSE can be transmitted from one living creature to another. Roughly 20 animal species have been documented to come down with diseases resembling BSE. These animals include mink, cats, sheep, mule deer, monkeys, pigs, mice, goats, elk, ostriches, cheetahs, pumas, and ocelots.
Evidence indicates that the British cow epidemic was a result of feeding reprocessed cheep carcasses (which included their brains) that had a disease called “scrapie,” a sheep spongiform encephalopathy. To further compound the problem, carcasses of BSE-infected cows were also used in the making of animal feed so healthy cows were not only fed the infected tissues of sheep, but also of other cows.
How is BSE Spread?
BSE is not caused by bacteria or viruses. It is caused by prions, which are resilient proteins resistant to most forms of disinfection. Because they have an unusual composition (they fold into a different, incorrect pattern), they are extremely hardy and therefore not easily destroyed. Prions still have some infectivity after being exposed for a full hour to dry heat at 680 degrees and they are not destroyed by freezing, drying, or ionizing radiation.
Prions can come into contact with normal brain proteins and can influence them to take on the prion protein’s three dimensional shape, resulting in a chain reaction of all neighboring proteins. These changed proteins result in the progressively fatal disease that has no known treatment.
The disease’s symptoms are changes in eating and sleeping habits, then difficulties in concentrating and memory loss. It then progresses on to behavioral changes, vision loss, incoordination, incontinence, muscle spasms and seizures. Finally, patients become unable to care for themselves, and death follows.
It has been discovered from students of a cannibalistic population in New Guinea that prion-related diseases are transmissible from one human to another. This group of people honored their dead by certain cannibalistic rites of children eating the brains of their deceased parents. Many of these children contracted kuru, a disease similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)—the human form of BSE.
Contaminated medical instruments have also spread CJD because the prions are difficult to kill. Body products, such as eye and brain tissue from human cadavers, have been linked to CJD transmissions.
Unfortunately, there is presently no practical way to determine whether a cow has a prion infection until it enters the final stages of the disease, because long incubation periods of BSE are typical. It is also unfortunate that a cow may have BSE even if the telltale spongiform brain changes are not found on autopsy. This would mean that the estimates of the disease in both cattle (and humans) may be grossly underestimated because prion diseases such as CJD and BSE have such long incubation periods—up to 30 years with CJD and up to six or eight years for BSE.
Research has been done on Alzheimer’s patients at the University of Pittsburgh where patients that were thought to have died from Alzheimer’s disease were actually found to have died from CJD. It has been estimated that over 10 million Americans will die of Alzheimer’s by the year 2050. Could it be that many of them are actually dying of CJD?
What about Dairy Products?
If mad cow disease is in the meat, could it be in dairy products? In 1998, the United Kingdom banned the sale of milk from BSE-infected cattle–the milk was to be destroyed in addition to the cow that produced it. However, we have seen that animals are infected with BSE prions long before they show nay symptoms, so when the milk from a symptom-free cow is mixed in collection tanks with milk from healthy cows, all the milk could be contaminated. Prions cannot be destroyed by pasteurization.
The FDA put a ban on feeding ruminant animals any part of the carcasses of other ruminant animals (such as cattle, sheep, and goats) in the US in 1997. However, that did not include blood products, milk, milk products, gelatin, and protein from pigs or horse sources. These products are still allowed to be included in feeds fed to other animals.
Many farmers feed their calves “calf milk replacers,” a type of artificial milk that includes animal plasma and animal protein products that likely include meat and bone meal. These replacers may expose calves to prions from infected animals. The implication is that thousands of animals and humans may now be infected with prions although they may not develop symptoms for many years.
I have been eating animal products – is it too late?
The evidence indicates that the total amount of prion exposure affects the incubation period of the disease. So, the more prions someone is exposed to, the sooner they will tend to develop the disease.
A prominent microbiologist and BSE researcher, Dr. Richard Lacey, stated “there is now an overwhelming scientific and medical case for avoiding the consumption of meat and meat products despite the government’s attempt to persuade us otherwise.”
An article about the “cattle crisis” appeared in Time magazine in February 2004. In response to the article, a letter to the editor from a reader in Austin, Texas, read like this:
Mad-cow disease? They should call it mad-human disease! Only we humans would make a cannibal out of a vegetarian animal by feeding it contaminated meat-and-bone meal, exposing it to a horrible nervous disorder, and then be mainly concerned with our inability to eat it. Which species, I ask, is man?
Are you worried about the ticking time bomb? Go vegetarian!
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