W.W.Inquiry: Mad Cow

Perchè un'inchiesta World Wide

Poiché i media italiani non ci informano sulla visione del problema “Mucca pazza” nei paesi extra-europei, abbiamo rivolto qualche domanda ad alcuni nostri amici e corrispondenti. Leggendo un articolo di Times, gentilmente inviatoci da Randy Mc Gregor, apprendiamo per esempio che i primi casi di BSE in Gran Bretagna furono scoperti fin dagli anni ’80, e che la FDA statunitense vietò l’importazione di carni ovine e bovine inglesi sin da allora. Intanto è stata dichiarata la quarantena per alcuni capi di bestiame nel Texas, per sospetta violazione delle leggi sull’alimentazione animale.


Think you heard about the BSE problem. Europe is very alarmed for this problem, and the meat consume is fallen down of 50%. Scientists say that the cause is feeding cows by fodder composed by flours made by animal meat and bones.

Now, our media do not make any comparison with extra-Europe countries, thus we don't know at all what they say in the US, or at the other side of the planet, about this problem.

But I have some curiosities, and  hope you can help me:

1)   In your country, do they use such kind of animal flours to feed the cows? (Or maybe you have there so many fields that you don't need other feeding for cows...)

2)   Was any case of BSE discovered in your country?

3)   Are they making checks in your country or not?

4)   Does the press and media in your country speak about this problem as a serious one, or do they treat it as a 'european curiosity'?

5)   Did some scientist give opinions on the problem?

6)   Is the people afraid about the possibility to have the BSE in your country? Or, are there news about any meat market decrease?


The US point of view  

Dale Gray – US correspondent of TdF

Randy Mc Gregor – US correspondent of TdF

Devy Wolff – US correspondent of TdF

BSE seen from Australia  

Robert Clements – australian correspondent of TdF

Some notes from UK  

Michael Martin-Smith – UK correspondent of TdF



Food & Science: a needed relationship 

Mad Cow: the feeding of the bovines was shortcutted by animal flours, excluding the vegetable stage from the cycle. The above is not a 'sin against nature', as the naturist mystic claims, but an act against the Humankind, due to antiscientific rush, an unscrupulous businessmanship and to the use of not verified shortcutes. Schauberger said: before trying to make better than nature we should have at least to learn not to make worse. 
We, Humans, are many: simplistic solutions will never more be possible, the turn-about of the demographic vector stands only if we do not analyze the scenario in all its capacities (markets in lessening, irreversible economic depression, soft genocide, and probably the end of the civilization itself).
The opening of the space frontier appears the only road able to open horizons, to assure the continuation of the development. The feeding of the Solar Civilization will surely be a still more complex problem, respect the one of feeding the terrextrial one. In anycase it does not make sense the romantic picture of the cow in the green pasture with white flour mills on the background. Reliable short cuts, and scientific solutions to the problem of the feeding are therefore highly desirable. But the scientific method must rigorously be applied, and not keep confiding in rogues that take the first road that seems to be convenient.


The US point of view  

US Ranchers are very concerned

Dale Gray – US correspondent of TdF

To begin, let me say that I live in a county in Idaho that derives about 90 percent of its income from the beef industry.  Ranchers around here are very concerned about mad cow disease.  Most track the news on the Internet as it becomes available and then send the news around via e-mail (the old west has some new ways!).  My family runs a large ranch in Nebraska and this is the kind of thing that they follow on a daily basis.

To my knowledge, no cases of mad cow have been discovered in the US to- date.  The use of bone meal is illegal here (although that doesn't mean it doesn't happen due to accident or dishonesty).  When I was young, bone meal was a feed suppliment, but sometime since it was outlawed.  Instead, we tend to feed on the range (grass) then send the cattle to feedlots where they are fattened on corn, beet pulp (by-product of sugar beets) and starch (by product of potato industry).  America's second largest feedlot is about 6 miles from my house, so I know quite well what is fed and am daily thankful that my house is up-wind!

The news media does cover the mad cow, but now that I think about it, it is mostly the BBC late at night.  We do get a couple of "hits" on the major networks when something big happens.

My father is a veterinarian.  We have talked several times about mad cow.  It is one of the things that every large animal veterinarian in the country is constantly on the look out for.  Sale yards personnel and brand inspectors are also on the look-out.  I suppose everyone in the industry has seen what has happened in Europe and is a little scared that the same thing can happen here.  There are probably some that think it could never happen here, but most realize the world is getting to be a pretty small place these days.

The concerns at the moment are in the cattle industry.  They are working hard to make sure the public never has to worry about it.  To some extent, they have succeeded.  There is no perceived fear of eating beef because of the BSE.  At the moment, there is much more of a concern about harmful forms of e-coli (read an interesting article comparing the different genomes of the "safe" and "harmful" forms just this morning on www.sciencenews.com).

I do not know the attitude of the scientific community on the subject.  It is out of my area of knowledge.   Perhaps the attached article will help.

Dale M. GrayHistorician of the Frontiers

But US public does not have any major concern about BSE, at the moment

Randy Mc Gregor – US correspondent of TdF

Thanks for your E-mail message on BSE. Coincidentally, I was reading this week's Time magazine just before your message came in. There is a two page article in Time about BSE: TIME - Medicine  Will Mad-Cow Disease Strike Here?  Also, I will try to answer the questions you asked.

Most cattle in the US are fed corn.  My wife is from a farm family in Nebraska.  For generations, the families in that area have raised two major crops - corn and soybeans.  The corn that they raise is what we call "field corn".  That means the corn has been raised only to feed livestock and is not for human consumption.  (We do eat a lot of corn in the US as a vegetable, but we call that "sweet corn".  Sweet corn is a bit differenct from field corn.)  A lot of the farmers in Nebraska and Iowa raise cattle.   Those cattle are always fed field corn.  Of course, nowadays, cattle are given food supplements to fatten them up.  I have no idea what is in those supplemants.

No known cases of BSE in the US, at this time.

Included in the attached TIME's article is the following statement: "...the U.S. Department of Agricuilture has an aggressive plan to find, quarantine, and destroy"  any cattle if BSE appears.

As far as the media are concerned, in my opinion, the US media take the problem as a serious one, but at the same time appear to see it as a "european curiosity."

In my opinion, the US public does NOT have any major concern of BSE at this time. And I have not read or heard anything about a decrease in the sale of beef. 

Randy Mc Gregor

Organic supply of meat is available in this country

Devy Wolff – US correspondent of TdF

No BSE was discover yet in the US that was made public, beef is still safe here to eat. They are making sure that no contaminants are given to the cattle in the food supply.

The American Red Cross are not accepting blood donation from any one that lived in the UK, France and some other west European countries from 1985 to present time.

The alternatives are in organic supply of meat which is available in this country.

Devy Wolff

BSE seen from Australia 

Robert Clements - Australian correspondent of TdF

Can't easily answer these questions; because i'm less than 24hrs from flying out to Guangzhou/Canton in PRChina & my ability to research while packing is fairly slender. If you wait with these responses until my return (after 23 Feb), that's fine. But otherwise:

As far as i know, we don't use any meat derived products in our livestock feed, largely because we don't have to (no freezing winters to keep cattle indoors). No BSE either, according. Use of USAmerican style artificial hormones to pad production is also avoided. Knowledge of BSE amongst consumers is fairly high, though; & has played a major part in creating a strong antiGM food consumer base here; distinctly to the frustration of those scientists who have been convinced by USAmerican salesmen that they can make a killing producing the stuff. The problem is blamed less on Europe than the arrogance of the mass market food industry in general; & no real differentiation between the three abovementioned problemes is made, as they all seen as different symptoms of the same disease.

(As you can see, i'm not particularly sympathetic to any of these approaches. There's nothing more old fashioned than an obsession with progress as a solution for all ills)

Only partially related to this, we have a very multicultural society generating a big market for exotic, traditional foodstuffs from Europe (the antipasto style of Italian cooking has always been big here); Asia (particularly East Asian & the subcontinentals); Latin America & increasingly Africa; the market for all military medium products like pontiac potatos or large steaks is continuing to drop, not helping the marketers of mass produced food at all.

More complete responses can only be offered on my return.

R. Clements - http://www.geocities.com/robtclements/endeavour2.html


Some notes from UK  

Michael Martin-Smith – Correspondent from UK and Educational Director of TdF

As far as I know,  in the rest of the world, nobody uses such kind of animal flours to feed the cows. And no case of BSE was yet discovered in extra-european countries. I think, anyway, the USA may have started checks. There is much  nationalistic nonsense said about this, but the more serious newspapers do treat it as a major problem for all consumers.

The main question, in the scientists comments, is "How long does the  human disease take to incubate?!" Most scientists say 8-12 years. In this case if there is to be a major epidemic the number of cases of human "BSE" should be showing a vast increase in the past year or so. In the UK about 75 people have died of the new BSE disease in the past 2 years; the next year should make the question much clearer.

In Britain people are still eating quite a lot of UK beef but there is reluctance to eat French or German beef. For many people here alas the issue is confused with our well known suspicion of other European countries and the EU.

I suspect that in the long run the whole BSE story will increase the trend to vegetarianism. This again has o be scientific- remember that vegetarian diets can meet human needs, but people must put 2-3 times as much bulk on their plates to get the same nutrition as from meat and many people forget this.

Michael Martin-Smith - Space Age Associates


Some US titles on BSE

Collected for TdF by Dale Gray

  • US Cattlemen Call "Zero Tolerance'' Meeting on Mad Cow - Reuters (Jan 25, 2001)

  • Gov't Urged To Act on Mad Cow Crisis - AP (Jan 25, 2001)

  • BSE Screening Test Is Accurate, Study Says - Reuters (Jan 25, 2001)

  • Germany Orders First Herd Slaughter in Mad Cow Case - Reuters (Jan 25, 2001)

  • Commercial test for mad-cow disease gets scientific OK - AFP (Jan 24, 2001)

  • BSE Inquiry - official web site of the UK public inquiry into the emergence of BSE and nvCJD.

  • How Safe Is Our Meat? - explores the issue of whether or not feeding livestock human waste could be a health hazard. From the BBC, October 29, 1999.

  • Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Fact Sheet - inludes fact sheets on the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies BSE and CJD. From the World Health Organization

  • Mad Cow/Mad Pig/CJD Information - get news updates on the presence of the diseases in the U.S., U.S. public policy, and more. From the Organic Consumers Association.

  • Official Mad Cow Disease Home Page - includes news updates, and an information research and health-related topics. A project of the Sperling Biomedical Foundation.

  • On mad cows and bio-fears - Chicago Tribune (Jan 24, 2001)

  • Doctors Call for Stronger Action against Mad Cow Disease - Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (Jan 24, 2001)

  • On Mad Cows And Bio-fears - Chicago Tribune (Jan 24, 2001)

  • Can It Happen Here? - Time (Jan 23, 2001)

  • CJD: A Matter of Life and Death - photo essay - Time Europe (Dec 5, 2000)

  • Good Cow, Bad Cow - Time Europe (Dec 4, 2000)

  • Can U.S. prevent a mad-cow medical crisis? - U.S. News (Jan 22, 2001)

  • Mad cow disease causes Red Cross to ask for ban on blood donations from former European residents - NPR (Jan 17, 2001)

  • French beef industry struggles with mad cow disease - CBC.CA (Jan 12, 2001)

  • Many inspection authorities feel they are in a difficult position - BBC (Nov 24, 2000)

  • In France, in recent months, there have been cases of cows with BSE getting into the food chain - BBC (Nov 24, 2000)

[AA - TDF 1/2001 - 27/01/2001]