OCA Update on Mad Cow USA

Mad Cow: Will the Nightmare Spread to the US?
Excerpted from BioDemocracy News #31 (Jan. 2001)
by Ronnie Cummins

Mad Cow: Will the Nightmare Spread to the US?

Mad Cow panic has once again swept across the European continent,
provoking drastic declines in beef sales, economic insecurity among
farmers, trepidation in the meat, drug, cosmetic, and plasma
industry, and near-hysteria among consumers. Recent revelations of
cattle testing positive for Mad Cow disease (also known as Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE) in Germany, France, Spain,
Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy, and
the expose in the press that thousands of tons of BSE-infected
cattle feed were exported from Britain to other nations over the
past decade, have set off the largest food scare in

In Germany where 13 cases of Mad Cow have been confirmed since
January in the nation's 15 million cattle, government officials have
announced plans to slaughter 400,000 at-risk cattle, while 300,000
bovines are slated to be killed in Ireland. In France consumers have
reacted angrily to reports that the meat from infected cattle has
been sold in supermarkets and restaurants, and that tons of suspect
animal feed have been imported from the UK. Effective Jan. 1, Japan
announced a ban on all beef imports from the EU, with other major
meat importers expected to follow suit. Last year Japan imported 642
tons of beef from European Union nations. A cow from the company
that supplies McDonald's in Italy tested positive for BSE on Jan.16,
prompting massive declines in hamburger sales.

Although only 92 Europeans have thus far officially died since 1996
from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human
equivalent of Mad Cow, British scientists admitted last year that,
due to the long latency period of the disease (up to 30-40 years in
humans), and due to the fact that the majority of meat eaters have
probably been exposed to Mad Cow, several hundred thousand Britons
(and an indeterminate number of Europeans from other countries) and
perhaps many more may die from the incurable brain-wasting disease
over the next few decades. Trying to keep the situation under
control, German officials have proposed mandatory testing for all
cattle over 24 months old for BSE, while EU authorities have placed
a complete ban on the feeding of animal parts (in industry
terminology, rendered animal protein) back to animals, a
controversial practice still routine in American agriculture. EU
officials are pleading for calm, telling consumers that the
discovery of new cases of BSE outside Britain are simply the result
of the fact that authorities are testing more cattle than ever

Commentators have noted for years that the Mad Cow crisis in Europe
has been a significant contributing factor fueling opposition to
genetically engineered foods. Seeing how industry and government
scientists have systematically lied to them about the dangers of
feeding animals to animals has made many consumers lose faith in
industrial agriculture altogether. Noting that the same government
officials who have repeatedly tried to reassure them that the BSE
crisis in under control are now saying that genetically engineered
foods are safe has brought on a profound skepticism and anger
at the grassroots level. Now a similar crisis of confidence may start
to develop in the United States as well.

Bogus FDA Feed Ban

Sandra Blakeslee of the New York Times reported on Jan. 11 that the
US Food and Drug Administration's supposed 1997 ban on feeding
rendered animal protein to cows and other ruminant animals is full
of loopholes, and moreover that the so-called ban is not being
enforced among the thousands of companies involved in the $3.2
billion dollar rendering industry and the $20 billion dollar animal
feed industry. As Blakeslee wrote: "Among 180 large companies that
render cattle and another ruminant, sheep, nearly a quarter were not
properly labeling their products and did not have a system to
prevent commingling, the FDA said. And among 347 FDA-licensed feed
mills that handle ruminant materials--these tend to be large
operators that mix drugs into their products--20 percent were not
using labels with the required caution statement, and 25 percent did
not have a system to prevent commingling. Then there are some 6,000
to 8,000 feed mills so small they do not require FDA licenses. They
are nonetheless subject to the regulations, and of 1,593 small feed
producers that handle ruminant material and have been inspected, 40
percent were not using approved labels and 25 percent had no system
in place to prevent commingling."

In other words millions of US cows, sheep, game farm deer and elk,
and pigs (pigs and cow's blood were inexplicably exempted in the
so-called FDA feed ban of 1997), not to mention household pets, are
still being fed billions of pounds of animal feed or pet food
containing meat and offal from ruminant animals--despite the obvious
danger to human and animal health and despite the fact that the FDA
and the USDA for the past three years have been reassuring the
public that this was no longer happening.

But the story gets scarier. In the Times on the front page of the
Sunday Jan. 14 edition, (tucked under a misleading headline
"Stringent Steps Taken by US on Cow Illness") Blakeslee drops the
bombshell. Not only has the US Mad Cow feed ban been a joke, but
apparently US feed companies, pet food companies, pharmaceutical
firms, and nutritional supplement manufacturers have been carrying
on with business as usual by importing large quantities of possibly
contaminated bovine parts and rendered animal protein--no doubt at
bargain basement prices--in 1989 and 1997. It appears that the same
thing that has European consumers' blood boiling, that their
government and industry stupidly or greedily imported tons of likely
contaminated rendered animal protein from Britain since 1989 has
also been happening in the United States, and likely other nations
as well. After British authorities made it illegal to feed rendered
animal protein to ruminant animals in their own country, the UK feed
industry simply sold it overseas.

As Blakeslee states, quoting from export records, "British export
statistics show that 20 tons of 'meals of meat or offal' that were
'unfit for human consumption' and probably intended for animals were
sent to the United States in 1989. And 37 tons were exported to the
US in 1997, well after the government banned imports of such risky
meat." Blakeslee goes on to point out what BioDemocracy News and
other critics of industrial agriculture have been saying for years,
that even if the US hadn't been importing 57 thousand tons or more
of suspect British offal in the 1990s, there is mounting evidence
that US rendered animal protein and bovine, sheep, deer, and elk
parts are themselves likely carriers of BSE and other Mad Cow-like
diseases. As Blakeslee relates, scientists have generally agreed that
BSE or BSE-like diseases "spontaneously" appear in "one out of every
million humans, cows, sheep and many other mammals. "Since 36 million
cattle are slaughtered annually in the United States, about 36 cows
spontaneously infected with mad cow disease could be entering the
nation's food chain each year." Thirty-six domestic US Mad Cows a
year being ground up and fed back to other animals may not sound
that alarming until you consider the fact that an average cow, pig,
chicken, game farm deer, elk, fish farm fish, or household cat and dog
--because of the commingling of many different animals' body parts
at the rendering plant and the feed mill--will be consuming the body
parts of literally thousands of different animals in their feed over their lifetime.

Mad Sheep, Deer, & Elk

And in fact the story gets worse. Scrapie or Mad Sheep Disease has
been endemic in US sheep herds since 1947, and the government has
done little or nothing to eradicate it. Significant numbers of
scrapie-infected sheep have undoubtedly been ground up every year
and fed back to other animals. In addition the US currently has a
raging epidemic of Mad Deer Disease and Mad Elk Disease (technically
called Chronic Wasting Disease) in parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
There are already several documented cases of young deer hunters in
their 20s and 30s dying from CJD, the human equivalent of Mad Cow.
Mad Elk Disease has recently spread into Saskatchewan, unnerving elk
ranchers and the nutritional supplements industry, who sell three
billion dollars worth of supplements each year (mainly to Asia) made
from elk antlers. Consider the fact that at the height of the first
Mad Cow crisis in Britain 1-2% of all cows were being diagnosed with
BSE, while the Times reports that up to 18% of mule-tail deer in the
Fort Collins area of Colorado are now carriers of Chronic Wasting
Disease. Hunters that kill deer in Colorado are required to turn in
the heads of these animals so that they can be tested for CWD or Mad
Deer Disease. Officials tell hunters not to eat the meat of infected
animals, (lab tests can take as long as six weeks) but have
stubbornly refused to ban hunting or eating venison, despite calls
from consumer groups such as the Center for Food Safety and the
Organic Consumers Association to do so. Meanwhile several million
people are eating venison and venison sausage every year in the US,
while several million more in the US and overseas are taking "glandular
supplements" or body-building hormones which contain concentrated
brain and pituitary material from US, British, and European cows.
For the full Jan. 14 Blakeslee article see

Another FDA Ban?

The FDA warned US drug companies, cosmetic companies, and
nutritional supplements firms Dec. 6 to stop using European bovine
parts in most of their products as of Jan. 1. It may already be too
late. As Blakeslee points out, even this ban--assuming it actually
gets enforced--still has loopholes. As she writes, nutritional
supplements "must have labels listing ingredients like bovine
pituitaries and adrenals, but manufacturers are not required to list
the country of origin. Other beef byproducts that are still allowed
in the country include milk, blood, fat, gelatin, tallow, bone
mineral extracts, collagen, semen, amniotic fluid, serum albumin and
other parts of European cattle that are widely used in vaccines and

For more information on Mad Cow and Mad Cow-like diseases see our
website <www.organicconsumers.org> as well as the following sites
<www.prwatch.org> and <www.mad-cow.org>

The best book on the threat of Mad Cow in the US is the book by John
Stauber and Sheldon Rampton called Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare
Happen Here? You can order hardback copies of the book from the
Organic Consumers Association for only $10 (this includes shipping).
Or you can access the entire book for free on the internet by going
to the excellent website of the Center for Media and Democracy

America and the world's 50-year experiment with chemical-intensive
industrial agriculture and genetic engineering may soon be moving
into its final, terminal stage. Mad Cow Disease and the growing
global opposition to factory farming and genetic engineering may
turn out to the harbingers of a new era of sustainable living and
organic agriculture. One can only hope that we make the necessary
transition to organic farming and ban the most dangerous practices
of genetic engineering and industrial food production before it is
too late. In the meantime, stay tuned to BioDemocracy News and the
Organic Consumers Association website <www.organicconsumers.org> for
the latest news and analysis.

By the way you can still get to the OCA website by going to
<www.purefood.org> We're now using <www.organicconsumers.org> as
our primary internet address simply because our adversaries have set
up a counterfeit internet site, filled with lies and industry
propaganda, at <www.purefoods.org> Take a look at this site if you
want to see what we're up against. Keep in mind, however, that the
"Bad Guys" wouldn't be doing this except for the fact that we're
winning the battle.

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