Mad Cow Disease - Thanks a lot British!

Thanks in large part to British greed and ignorance, the world beef supply grows more contaminated by the day. Now all beef and beef-product consumers risk new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (Mad Cow disease).

I can forgive the British for the unfortunate creation of MCD, but how can they be forgiven for not taking responsibility to eliminate the problem once they realized it’s existance?

Greed…and ignorance.


**note: This is no way is a personal attack on ANY of the many SDMB members that hail from GB, rather an attack on the leadership of GB.

I was under the impression that BSE was a product of poor regulatory processes in cattle feed production, regardless of nationality? I don’t think you can really hold Britain’s leadership responsible for the problems in France, Germany or Italy (or anywhere else) – they have their own set of incompetent agricultural rules. Feel free to blame them for problems right here, though!

My understanding is that this whole problem originated due to a British strategy of feeding cows pellets made from animal waste. That’s how this whole problem started.

The British leadership having realized the problems that were created from this practice, nontheless continued to ship calves and feed pellets to other countries…rather than to “bite the bullet” and destroy thousands of potentially infected animals, and tons of these problem-causing pellets.

…a decision driven by greed…

No mattk, the British ARE to blame…for starting the problem and then for not eliminating it once they realized the impact.

NZ and Australian beef is clean. So far we do not have mad cow disease in these countries.

You can’t blame the British because the US industry didn’t clean up their act! Sure the British were reasonably slow in destroying their beef industry - they did kill thousands of cattle BTW but that’s not to say they are to blame for the US problem. The US cattle industry was feeding dead diseased animals to their cattle too. IIRC they began the practice.

If the British were spreading MCD around the planet, every country would be infected and that is not the case.

[ul][li]Mad Cow Disease is a pan-European problem, stemming from malnutrition (i.e. dead cows and sheep ended up in cow food. Cows are not carnivores, etc.)[/li][li]Mad Cow Disease is NOT Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome. Eating meat from a MCD-infected cow can lead to CJ. CJ is a human disease, MCD is a cow disease.[/ul][/li]All in all, poor rant. Two factual errors. It wouldn’t last 5 minutes in GD.

You got the greed factor spot-on though.

But there have been no cases of MCD in the US. If the USDA even suspects there’s a chance a herd has been exposed, they slap a quarantine on it PDQ. They run random tests regularly on Cattle, sheep and as of late, deer. In fact, they just put a herd in Texas under quarantine:

U.S. Quarantines Texas Cattle Over Mad Cow Rules


*Originally posted by Coldfire *
**[list][li]Mad Cow Disease is a pan-European problem, stemming from malnutrition (i.e. dead cows and sheep ended up in cow food. Cows are not carnivores, etc.) **[/li][/QUOTE]

Uhmmm…it’s not a classic malnutrition (meaning starvation) problem, it’s a fast weight gain issue. Animals given protein-based feeds gain weight faster, therefore less time in the feedlot and faster to the market.


Sure, that could mean starvation. It could also mean “feading bovines dead cow parts”. Right?

:barely peeks in:

Okay. Works for me. I know better than to argue connotation vs. denotation, especially around here. I’ve seen the crispy remains of the victims, and it ain’t pretty.


Coldfire the poster writes:

First of all, who in the fuck said that MCD and nvCJS are the same thing? Nobody in this thread! Sheesh!..Correcting errors that don’t exist.

Secondly, MCD is more than a “pan-European” problem. You really should spend a little more time in research before launching your personal attacks. Because British profit-mongers have sold meat and pellets to third-world counties, the problem is well outside of Europe. Australia may well be affected too. How much longer before the problem makes it’s way to the US?

All in all Coldie, a very poor rebuttal, but hey, it’s what I’d expect…

If you’re going to blame the British for “creating” CJD, then you might as well blame the good ol’ US of A for “creating” the erroneously named Spanish flu, which killed tens of millions of people worldwide. The virus first appeared in a fort in Kansas, IIRC, and American soldiers who were sent overseas were the ones who shared it with the rest of the globe. It’s rather narrowminded to blame a the leadership of a particular nation for its spread.

Welcome to the frustrating and frightening world of emerging pathogens, KO. I agree that it is the goverment’s responsiblity to react as promptly as possible to any threat of this sort, but until scientists realize there’s a threat and have identified the source, a lot of damage has already been done.

It’s easy to look back now and say “those damn Brits never should have stopped chemically treating their bone meal”, but until a reservoir is identified there’s nothing anyone can do. Before the West Nile Virus was positively identified, you think politicans in NYC gave a damn about pools of stagnant water? Before hantaviruses suddenly killed several young and otherwise healthy people in the Four Corners region of the southwestern US, you think Navajo tribal leaders and government officials gave a damn about how much mouse shit people had in their houses?

Sorry, but not in this case. The British knowingly allowed the export of beef and feed that they had outlawed in their own country.

Now what does that say? It says that they knew it was harmful. It says that they knew that they didn’t want their children eating tainted beef, but hey, it’s OK for the people in other countries to eat it because we don’t want to take a lo$$ on all the waste.

…your analogy with “Spanish Flu” doesn’t fly in this case.

The British knew what it was, what it could do, but allowed it to spread across the world rather than to bite the bullet and do the right thing. The British leadership has blood on their hands.

Oh, and further, if I’m narrow-minded, it seems as though I’m in good company:
The French:


The Australians:


I think you are overstating your good company.

Your first link states that French prosecuters “want charges brought against British and European officials”, so the French prosecuters aren’t placing the blame solely on the British, like you seem to be doing. And your second link doesn’t represent the opinion of Australians, it represents the opinion of one Australian MD. While Dr. Dumble makes many valid points, I don’t think she speaks for all Australian citizens, or even its goverment.

Perhaps the British government could have delayed the spread of BSE, but they certainly didn’t “create” MCD. The real issue isn’t with the British goverment, or even with people with financial intere$ts. My point is that expecting any government to squash the spread of a novel pathogen is a bit naive, IMO. In a global marketplace, diseases are going to spread regardless of what nation happens to be home of the reservoir.

When it’s people vs. pathogens, bet on pathogens.

Alphagene: The British government did a whole lot worse than just “delay the spread of” BSE. That makes it sound like the BSE crisis was inevitable. No reporter who ever followed the BSE story in England would believe that. Essentially, the (then) Tory government leaders knew that BSE was a problem as far back as 1992, but did almost nothing about it until 1996. Furthermore, contaminated feed was identified as a problem almost from the outset, but it took years for the Ministries for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) to ban cattle feed containing animal by-products. Lastly, the government went way too far in declaring not only beef but also the more dangerous brain and spinal cord 100% safe. It wasn’t. If the government and MAFF had been more interested in consumer safety, and less interested in protecting British farmers, there wouldn’t have been a BSE crisis, full stop. It was never a question of pathogens vs. people, more a case of the government throwing gasoline on a raging fire.

People in the US can afford to be smug about this. But people like myself who lived in the UK between 1992 and 1997 aren’t laughing about it. Did you know, for example, that the FDA bans blood donations by anyone who lived in the UK for six months between 1992 and the present? That’s because they fear that anyone who lived there and ate beef may have nvCJD–and as yet there is no blood test for it. What a legacy the Tories left behind.

Thanks Duke for a well informed post. Alpha is just trying to sidestep the unpleasant issue of the complicity of the British Government.

I live in the US, but I’m not smug about this problem. It’s probably just a matter of time before the US is infected as well. I’m secure in saying this because of the fact that since the British Government did not take responsibility to handle this problem properly, contaminated cattle, meat, and feed were in fact exported. I understand that in some cases these products were then exported to yet a third country (sometimes under different labels).

The list of cattle-related products that may be infected is staggering and goes well beyong foodstuffs.

Recently, the World Health Organization recognized this as a worldwide problem.

I’m not being “smug” and I’m hardly sidestepping unpleasant issues. I’m suggesting that the worldwide spread of dangerous pathogens, despite humanity’s best efforts, is extremely possible. How less pleasant can you get?

The British goverment is at blame for a great deal, but not for the “creation” of CJD. I have no interest in getting the British goverment off the hook for potentially infecting millions of people. And I’d also like to think that my extensive research of prions and TSEs makes my posts “well informed” too. But fortunately I don’t rely on internet message boards for positive reinforcement. :smiley:

And I’m ceratinly not suggesting that BSE is no big deal, and I’m a tad confused at the implication. If anything it is my overwhelming respect for the ability of pathogens to spread that makes me feel like its global presence is inevitable. Even if a goverment acts swiftly, there is always a period of time bewteen the the emergence of the virus and when its detection. Within that period of time, a pathogen can spread very quickly.

I think you, KO, are looking at the politicans and saying “ultimately, they should have done more to conatin it”. Hey, I’m with you 100% on that one. But I’m also looking at the pathogen and saying “ultimately, there really is very little anyone can do to contain it.” I think we’re both right.

Ok Alphagene, I see where you are coming from, but when you say:

I still kinda have to disagree with the “contain” word. It could have been slowed. In 1989 the British government was assuring it’s people and the world that things were “under control”, when it fact, they could have been more stringent in their quarantines, more thorough in their elimination of their cattle, and could have exercised much more dilligence in the area of exports.

They didn’t do all that they could though, and although I’m sure that your knowledge and respect for pathogens and their ability to proliferate is well founded, wouldn’t it have been nice to have been able to have bought more time? The lack of appropriate action on the part of the British has only accelerated the spread and the deaths has it not?

Oh well, spilled milk I guess. We can’t turn back the clock now, but please allow me a modest PIT RANT against those that chose profits over people.


Many countries use animal by-products in their feeds. It is this process that developed Bovine Spongiform Encepalopothy. A variant of the disease is possible in every animal that is fed by-product feed, including sheep and pigs. Yes, the British government stalled before reacting to the impending crisis, but the UK are not the only country that exported by-product cattle feedthat was possibly infected.

Many countries stalled over acting.

Glad you’re getting around to addressing specific’s in this highly complex issue, Krispy. Here’s my take.

Your main contention appears to be that the British Government of the day (the crucial time frame encompasses at least three separate Administrations 1987, 1993 and 1996) didn’t do enough to prevent the spread of nvCJD to other countries. OK, lets consider that. I’ll do it by analogy (because of the subjects complexity. I hope this is easier for casual observers to grasp yet, at the same time, is not wholly simplistic):
A city adjacent to where you live finds itself at the heart of some new, not yet understood epidemic and is researching the origin, how the disease is transmitted and how fundamental counter-measures need to be to eradicate the disease (three related issues, note). The city notifies the world of the situation but doesn’t know yet what should be done to address the epidemic internally, let alone what to do externally.

You know, because results of the research are in no way withheld, that for some time the scientists are effectively shooting in the dark in experimenting and trying to piece the whole picture together before they take appropriate remedial action that, on the current state of their knowledge, will deal with the epidemic.

What do you do at that point – you don’t say “Great, they’re looking into it so it should be OK to visit” Nah.

However as more and more evidence comes to light, the focus of the research becomes increasingly fundamental and the initial precautions (including export bans) are now perceived to be inadequate. Again, this information is out there in the wider community (who now have enough information at their disposal to make informed decisions about how to react to the disease) and all the city’s immediate neighbours take appropriate action (based on what is known about the disease) to prevent it spreading to their own areas. The city itself is subject to the same legally enforced action taken by its neighbours

So what do you do now, Krispy. All the city’s neighbours have taken precautionary action (as has the city), the city itself is still researching the origin, transmission and appropriate remedial action but nothing yet is scientifically established and the disease is still ‘out there’ – you want to visit ? Nah

Eventually, the city deals with its problem and has no trace of the disease (it took a long time but, finally, the science was done and appropriate action taken) yet those neighbours who continued to visit while the research was being done find they are now diseased. Who’s to blame for the spread ?

The answer probably lies in the political processes of a number of Governments yet, at the same time, we were (collectively) dealing with a late twentieth century phenomenon on which little information was known. As more information (scientifically proven and otherwise) did come to light it was put into the public domain. Government may have acted slowly but the information was there for all to see.

On a legal point, there is nothing, IMHO (although International Law isn’t my strong suit), to prevent any country taking legal action against the UK Government for ‘causing’ the spread by negligent action save they don’t have the grounds. And I think it’s safe to assume that if blame can be put at someone else’s door, politicians wouldn’t be overly shy about doing so.

Hopefully, we learn the lessons and don’t repeat the errors.

Apologies for the analogy, I just wanted (to try) and make the complexity comprehendible for casual viewers.