|analytical Q||May-Aug 2000||Sept-Dec 2000||Contact||Discussion|
My father once corrected me when I signed myself with a BSc. "Wasn't your degree a BSE? Bachelor of Engineering?" he pried.
How times have changed! BSE now stands for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. From what I've read, it seems to stem from greedy farmers feeding grounded beef and bone meal to their herbivore cows. Such ground-up remains is supposed to increase their growth (hormones, proteins, etc). But this forces these herbivores to be carnivorous. Not only this, but it is effectively cannibalism: eating their own species. Some cows will then contract BSE and die. If humans eat the infected parts of the BSE-ridden cows, they will get the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease CJD which has no cure.
According to the International Herald Tribune (7 Dec 2000), "meat and bone meal was first produced by the SwiftCo. in Chicago around the turn of the century." This was the "tankage - the mass of brown, stringy stuff that was left after the waste portions of the carcasses had had the lard and tallow dried out of them," described in Upton Sinclair's novel about Chicago slaughter-houses "The Jungle." It was first used as a fertiliser, but Britain started to feed it to animals in the second world war.
Although this practice was finally stopped Britain in 1988, the British continued to export this "tankage" to the rest of Europe, Asia, and even the US and Canada. "The spread of BSE has broadly followed the patterns of those exports, with Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, and France being the most affected countries."
What is truly scary? That anyone of us that has consumed beef or byproduct of beef is a potential victim. That it doesn't take eating a lot of hamburgers to get it. That the incubation period could be as long as ten years. That once we get it, we will regress backwards, our brains will get eaten alive, we will be unable to function as normal, and we will die.
What are the symptoms of CJD? Now don't let me scare you further. PHD = piled higher and deeper. Or the Prion Principle of How to Die from CJD: The victim will suffer from insomnia, memory loss, depression, anxiety, withdrawal, and fearfulness, and eventually loss of coordination, incontinence, and blindness.
Experts believe there will be an epidemic.
Related diary entry:
Some scary statistics:
So far, there are more than 180,000 known cases of BSE in cows in the world. There were probably more in the 4.8 million cows culled and destroyed since 1996.
An article in the science journal Nature estimated that 975,000 infected cows entered the food supply.
In Europe, 91 people are known to have contracted CJD.
For more information, visit Sperling Biomedical Foundation's "mad cow" site