- Like all modern farmed animals, cattle suffer from many
diseases because of how they are raised and fed with little known effects
on the people who eat them and their products. Despite salmonella, E. coli,
avian influenza, SARS, campylobacter and other evidence of farmed-animal-to-human
disease transmission, government and industry reassure us that virtually
no farmed animal diseases infect humans.
- When a known transmittable infection is confirmed in
a particular animal, as mad cow disease was confirmed in a cow in Washington
state in December, they reassure the public there is nothing to worry about.
It's just "one animal"; the nation's food supply "remains
- But scrutiny belies these assurances. For example, on
December 23, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman told reporters that
the infected Holstein cow was never meant for the U.S. food supply (1)
and, at the same time, that inspectors were trying to trace the whereabouts
of the infected flesh (2). In fact, no one knows where it went. It could
be, or it could have been, by now an ingredient in dog food, pig chow,
poultry feed, hamburger, chicken nuggets or all of the above. It could
be stewing in a sewage plant somewhere or "misfolding" in an
individual's neural pathway.
- Talk about "isolated cases" is nonsense regardless.
Agribusiness is global, and for this reason alone the synergies of animal
and human diseases elude exactitude. However, we do know some things from
which reasonable conclusions and choices may derive.
- Take cattle feed, for example. Realizing that cattle
get fatally infected with mad cow disease by eating feed containing tissue
from the central nervous systems of infected cattle, and that a variant
of this fatal neurological disease may be transmitted to human consumers
of beef products, the U.S. and Canada banned certain cattle-derived feed
ingredients from cattle feed in 1997 - brain, spine and the bones called
vertebrae that protect the spinal cord.
- However, nervous system tissue along with the stomachs
and intestinal contents of poultry and pigs are fed to cattle (3), as are
poultry manure and used poultry-house bedding, or "litter," into
which the birds excrete their waste, die prematurely and decompose by the
millions each year (4). Cattle raised next to chicken houses are often
"grazed" on this noxious waste (5).
- Thus, even if feeding cattle to cattle is banned in the
U.S. and Canada, feeding the banned cattle tissue to poultry and pigs is
common and legal in both countries. Protein additives extracted from diseased
cows and fed to chickens and pigs contain the same infectious prions that
cause mad cow disease (6). When the birds and pigs who ate the prions are
in turn fed to cattle, the infectious tissue is recycled back to its source.
- If the danger of this circular disease route seems remote,
consider that the prion proteins responsible for mad cow disease can withstand
the intense heat that is used to render diseased cattle into poultry and
pig feed (3), and that birds have been shown to have the same type of prion
proteins as mammals, including humans (7).
- For these reasons, the 2002 Nobel Prizewinning professor
of biophysics at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich Switzerland,
Kurt Wuthrich, warned last summer that chickens could be a "prion
reservoir" that poses a " mad cow" threat to humans (7).
Other distinguished scientists including D. Carleton Gajdusek, the first
to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on mad cow-like diseases
(8), and Dr. Pat Brown, medical director for the U.S. Public Health Service,
speculate that pigs and chickens could be harboring mad cow disease and
passing it on to humans (9).
- And while to date no pigs, chickens or turkeys have been
reported with the disease, Michael Greger, M.D. of Cornell University says
that these animals die so young, "they may not have time to develop
symptoms," yet they could act as "silent carriers" (10).
- Knowing what we now know about mad cow disease and how
it travels - including the fact that its travels cannot truly be traced,
given the realities of the industrial economy - we should give serious
thought to the role of animal products in our diet and that of our children.
A vegetarian diet is not only an ethical opportunity to create a less violent
world but an intelligent food safety initiative that doesn't depend on
- Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
- Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message
board at: http://www.clickitnews.com/ubbthreads/postlist.php?
- Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
- Go with God and in Good Health
- From Jim Mortellaro
- Whilst I agree with your assessment, I wonder what the
- Should we become vegetarians? Some people cannot tolerate
a purely vegetarian diet, nor wish to do so. Our fish are contaminated
to the extent that fairly soon, we will not be able to eat fish safely.
- In my home, we pay through the nose for eggs from a particular
farm in our area. Free ranging chickens. Not one complaint of disease of
any kind in 25 years. And yet they tried to put them out of business for
- Dairy? We stopped using dairy to the extent that we had
previously used it, long ago. Our dairy is imported from a particular area
in Sicily. SICILY for Pete sake. And again, I pay through the nose. Not
to mention other orifices. What is an Italian without Pecorino Romano on
the pasta? Or ricotta? Or mozzarella? Nothing I tell you.
- Vegetables and fruits are now suspect due to the importation
of these products from South America. Who knows what feet or other body
parts of entities unknown, tread on those products before, during and after
ripening? Let alone shipping. I would suggest a piece by the author on
what IS reasonably safe to eat and drink these days or at least, how to
go about making our diet more safe through whatever means. That would satisfy
the dilemma we face in these terrible times.
- Merely stating the obvious is not enough. Otherwise,
one might imagine starving one's self to death before opening one's mouth
to feed. Well, I can tell you this much. Sicilians won't ever do that.