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You and Your Cat and Mad Cow Disease

What's All the Fuss About

By Eve Riser-Roberts, Ph.D.

  • TSEs (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases)
  • BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy--Mad Cow Disease)
  • CJD (Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease--the human form)
  • FSE (Feline Spongiform Encephalopathy--the cat form)
  • Scrapie (the sheep form)
  • CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease—the deer and elk form)
  • Kuru (a human cannibal form)

These diseases are all transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases (TSEs), which means they can be spread and that they cause the deterioration of the brain in their victims, turning them to sponges. The industrialized, cannibalistic practice of feeding animal remains back to other animals is now considered to be the cause of the spread of TSEs. (53) The suspected agent (a prion) that produces the disease cannot be destroyed. These diseases are always fatal.

“The initial symptoms of the human form of the disease (CJD) are subtle and ambiguous and can include insomnia, depression, confusion, personality/behavioral changes, strange physical sensations, balance disorders and/or memory, coordination and visual problems. Rapid progressive dementia and usually myoclonus (involuntary, irregular jerking movements) develop as CJD progresses. Also, language, sight, muscular weakness, swallowing and coordination problems worsen. The patient may appear startled and become rigid. In the final stage the patient loses all mental and physical functions. The patient may lapse into a coma and usually dies from an infection like pneumonia precipitated by the bedridden, unconscious state. The duration of CJD from the onset of symptoms to death is usually one year or less.” It is a horrible death. (55)

Kuru is the name given to a human disease that was discovered in the 1950s among New Guinea’s Highlander natives that practiced cannibalism (53, 85, 86). The symptoms were like those of CJD. The disease disappeared after cannibalism was outlawed by the Government. This disease showed the dangers of a species eating its own kind.

The Holstein recently discovered with Mad Cow Disease (BSE) in the United States in the state of Washington was introduced into the food chain, for both humans and animals. It would have ended up on many dinner tables (instead of just a few) in several states, if it had not been diagnosed in time for a recall of most of the meat from the animal. Quickly following this was a recall of meat from another cow from the same herd. It has now been announced that the infected cow was accompanied by 80 others from the same herd purchased from Canada, and only 19 of these have been accounted for (22). It is even possible there were actually 258 cattle in this shipment from Canada, only half of which have been located (23).

The most infectious parts of the diseased cattle -- the brain and spinal cord -- most likely went to a rendering facility, where these parts could be processed into pet and animal feed. If the FDA is able to trace where the parts went and whether they were converted into pet food, it might have the food recalled. The main threat among pets is cats because they "are susceptible to BSE," says Dr. Lester Crawford, FDA's deputy commissioner (3).

Even though we are placated by representatives from the Government and the cattle industry that there is nothing to worry about and that BSE has never been found before now in the U.S., this statement is actually untrue. (53) In spite of Government claims to the contrary, very little testing has been performed in the U.S. in the past to look for this disease. Also, the tests were conducted on specifically selected cattle and those from just a few states—not an even or representative distribution (75). Experts believe BSE has been in our food chain for many years. (26, 53) Former USDA veterinarians told UPI they have long suspected the disease was in U.S herds and there are probably additional infected animals. (28) A statement buried in FDA regulations confirms knowledge of this threat: “Perhaps the most egregious problem with the FDA rules is that they would permit known TSE-positive materials to be used in pet food, pig, chicken, and fish feed—FDA only requires that it be labeled ‘Do not feed to cattle and other ruminants.’” (53)

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