PETA's warning on mad cow

April 8, 2001 The Times of India News Service

"India's sacred cow may be mad," warns People For Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently included India on a list of countries outside Western Europe with the highest risk of harbouring mad cow disease.

PETA will soon mail to all MPs, urging them to take urgent measures to contain a possible epidemic outbreak.

PETA India chief functionary Anuradha Sawhney said many areas in India are infested with contageous livestock disease like the foot-and-mouth that has prompted authorities in Europe to take extreme measures. "In the past month, reportedly two dozen cattle died in Punjab of this disease. Infection of Indian livestock by other diseases like rinderpest and brucellosis is rampant," Sawhney said.

Some livestock diseases like brucellosis claim human as well as animal victims. In human beings, symptoms include severe fever, excessive sweating, chills, weight loss and pain. "The human variant of madcow disease, believed to be caused by consumption of meat tainted with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is painfully killing Europeans and could be present in India," she warns, ominously adding: "there is no cure." Symptoms of mad cow infection among humans include disorientation, hallucination, paranoia and deterioration.

"The mad cow disease spreads through dairy products and hence, we suggest that people should aviod ghee, cheese, milk, ice-cream, butter, cream and curd. We advocate veganism _ aviod both animal flesh and products. Even jelly and silver foil mithai that are made out of animal fat should be avoided," he said. Incidentally, the Indian government has recently approved a "vegetarian food" label for use in food products.

Britain, France and other European nations, slaughtered and set afire hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth and mad cow disease. "Given the unhygienic conditions in slaughter houses in India, they are breeding grounds for diseases. Moreover, there being no provisions for testing the livestock, people run a high risk of contamination when they consume the diseased meat," the functionary said.

Poorva Joshipura, director of investigations for PETA India said unhealthy and seemingly healthy cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens are dragged together to slaughter floors awash with blood and flees where their throats are hacked at with unclean blades.

"Most municipal authorities including the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and Bangalore Municipal Corporation are unconcerned about the deplorable conditions despite the serious health risk they pose to consumers. The UN says India is at the risk for mad cow disease but people who eat meat from these filthy and disease-prone abattoirs must be mad already," Joshipura said.

PETA's focus on meat follows its earlier crucade against the way in which animals are transported to abattoirs. Many countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt have recently banned Indian meat imports. Vegetarian organisations like the Indonesian Vegetarian Association is also lobbying with the government to drop a plan to import Indian beef, stating that it would endanger the lives of Indonesia's animals as well as human population. Last year, the United Arab Emirates banned meat from 10 Indian companies citing unhygienic conditions.

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