Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Could cynicism be catching?

Feeling a little twitchy after your last visit to the burger-plex? Don’t  worry it’s just in your head, or rather, IT IS IN YOUR HEAD AND THERE’S NO CURE! Actually your chances of developing the 100% fatal Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease are unlikely. The discovery of a Mad Cow at a rendering plant in California doesn’t mean we’re all going to die. If you think joining the veggie-cult is the answer, far more people die every year from diseases spread by corporate grown spinach than have ever died all together from Mad Cow.

Some basic facts: the actual disease only exists in sheep (but can spread to cohabitating goats). It’s actually caused by a prion, this is a protein more simple than even a virus. The problem is that these prions are virtually indestructible, not only won’t cooking get rid of them, but they can exist in the environment for decades. It’s not some new “super bug”, it was first scientifically identified in 1732. Although the actual mechanism only came to light in the last 15 years and is still under study.

The disease only exists in cows and humans from ingesting the prions which will accumulate since they are indestructible, they kill brain cells more like a poison than an infection, and it won‘t spread to others. Regulations have been in place for, well centuries, that kept the disease in check. Unfortunately deregulation under Thatcher/Reagan and rise of large corporate farming resulted in an increasing level of contamination in the UK and to a lesser degree in the US. The UK and France had several hundred human deaths, but the so far no human cases have been “admitted to” in the US.

All that is required to end the disease is to not to use sheep nerve tissue as animal feed or human food. There have been suspicious occurrences in the US such a mink farm in Wisconsin that had all its minks develop an unidentified disease exactly like Mad Cow (dead cows are typically use for mink food). There have been major outbreaks of “wasting disease” in wild deer fed bone meal (to produce trophy racks). The last I heard it doesn’t seem to spread among deer like it does in sheep.

The good news is that the USDA came up with a very clever DNA based eradication program. All that is required is to test all herd rams (breeding males), and not use any that carry a certain gene that allows the disease to develop in sheep, ewes don‘t spread the gene. This disease probably came off the ark with Noah and most sheep are actually immune if they don’t have the gene introduced to their off-spring through breeding.

Since corporations are by definition amoral they tend to break rules to enhance profits. Somebody in California broke the rules and has been feeding contaminated nerve tissue to cows. The rendering plant where the random test turned up the disease may well have been “recycling” the prions back into the feed supply for years. The problem is the USDA has been testing very few samples. Some activists have claimed that the USDA has been deliberately covering up the existence of the disease, but I guess this public report disproves that claim. Either that, or it’s so out of control now that somebody didn’t think it wise to continue the practice. Is one of the early symptoms cynicism?  


ickenittle said...

since the last out break in 2003, using critter parts as a cattle feed filler has been banned.

Today's filler is chicken litter, a friendly sounding name for chicken crap. Since chickens are fed ground up critters including cows, and are messy eaters, this litter contains ground up cows fed back to cattle.

It's bad enough to feed a vegan cow chicken crap, but turning them into cannibals is hideous.

We are what we eat.

prairie2 said...

Buy organic, if you can't grow it yourself.