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Mad Cow Disease

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Where's the Beef

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (B.S.E.), better known as Mad Cow Disease, is a fairly new disease. The disease first reared its ugly head in the mid 1980's in the British Isles (Wildeman). B.S.E. quickly became an epidemic in Britain. Scientists then believed and stressed to the public that the disease could not be spread to humans because of the species gap (Aiken). Was this fact or wishful thinking? Come to find out, many dead humans later, the statement was false. Mad cow disease is a deadly disease and, of the most industrialized nations in the world, the United States has the least stringent regulations on the prevention of B.S.E.

Spongiform encephalophalopathy is found in many species including sheep, humans, deer and cats (P.E.T.A.). It is thought that cows first received the disease from sheep (Aiken). The sheep version of spongiform encephalophalopathy, Scrapie, was first discovered in the 1700's (Aiken). Researchers believe that farmers and there cost cutting method of mixing dead infected sheep neural bits with cow feed was the cause of the bovine disease (P.E.T.A.). If cows or any other animal eat the remains of another animal that is affected by their species form of spongiform encephalopathy they may then develop the disease. For example, if a human eats meat from a cow with B.S.E. the human could develop what is called vCJT or Creutzfeld-Jakob disease.

Cattle affected by B.S.E. experience progressive degeneration of the nervous system. The signs of affected cattle are a change in temperament, nervousness, aggression, lack of coordination, and a loss of weight even with a persistent appetite (Aiken). This is caused by the deterioration of brain cells or neurons in the brain. As the brain tissue dies, the animal loses control over itself and seems to have gone "mad".

B.S.E. has affected the cattle industry all over the world. The first case of mad cow disease in the United States was found in December 2003 (C.D.C.). When the cow's origin was traced, it was found to have come from Canada (C.D.C.). This finding of B.S.E. positive animals coming from Canada and the United States had an immediate impact on the two countries meat industry. It's estimated cost to the meat industry was approximately 7 billion dollars (C.D.C.). Japan, the United States' number one buyer of beef, quickly banned U.S. beef after the 2003 B.S.E (Japan). scare. Korea, the United States third largest export market for beef quickly banned all imports of U.S. beef (Korea). In 2006, Japan and Korea began allowing small shipments of beef from the United States (Korea). Both Japan and Korea have now instituted much stricter regulations on U.S. beef.

Japan's prime minister and many other experts are not happy with the United States regulations on beef. In Japan, every cow is tested for B.S.E. before it is slaughtered (Aiken). In Europe, one in every four cows is tested and France has tested more cows this year then the U.S. has in ten (Aiken). The U.S. is also still one of a few countries that feed slaughterhouse waste to cattle and other farm animals, the cause of B.S.E in cattle and spongiform encephalopathy diseases in other species.




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