Mad Cows, Maybe, Mad Humans Should be
So now mad cow disease filters back into the public awareness with two confirmed cases of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease, the human variant of Mad Cow DIsease in Marin county, California. Researchers who investigated the cases confirm that they were not caused by the consumption of contaminated beef, although that is one way to acquire it. I love a conspiracy theory, so I wonder with what degree of certitude they can determine this, but I’ll let it pass. This disease is not a virus, or a bacteria, but instead caused by maladjusted proteins called prions that are resistant to all forms of medical therapy. It is also a disease that is rarely reported or seen. But part of its rarity is that to accurately diagnose it an autopsy must be performed so that the the tell tale signs of brain deterioration can be seen. Since the symptoms closely resemble Alzheimer’s and dementia, few autopsies are performed that could confirm the disease. There may be more cases of CJD out there than are acknowledged, but without autopsy studies, we don’t know, so don’t put away your tin foil hat just yet.
We have known about the danger of these diseases for twenty years. While Europe was going through their crisis of mad cow disease in the nineties, American former cattle rancher Howard Lyman, known as the “Mad Cowboy” went on the record on the Oprah Winfrey show to explain how modern farming practices essentially created and propagated the disease. The result? A great collected yawn from the public on their way to the drive-thru and a fat lawsuit by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association against Winfrey and Lyman for disparaging American beef. the lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but food disparagement laws followed quickly. Thank you, lobbyists, for always keeping short term paychecks ahead of public health.
But with such health risks, surely the USDA and other vested federal authorities are testing for this disease in the food supply so it should not interfere with a tasty burger, right? Not so fast. Very little testing for mad cow is done, and if you are an overachiever and want to do more? Forget about it, you’ll just make the slackers look bad, and we can’t have that. Plus, that burger you eat did not come from one cow, but a massive mosh pit of hundreds of cattle. If any one was infected… well you get the picture. It is a classic case of hide your head in the sand and it all goes away, right? Since the disease in humans is rarely seen or tested for, why bother testing the food supply? Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies.
The solution of course is obvious: Go Plant Based. The decades old epidemics of heart disease and cancer no longer raise an eyebrow. But a rare, spooky, dramatic disease like CJD does cause concern. But getting the dead animals out of your diet will reduce or elminate your risk of these diseases. Don’t eat dead animals. Don’t eat live ones either, that’s just plain gross.