Despite the efforts of animal
rights activists such as Howard Lyman to keep it going, the Mad Cow Disease hysteria continues to recede. The European Commission is currently studying
a proposal to lift its ban on British beef which most observers expect
to occur by the autumn of 1998.
The EC banned British beef in March
1996 after the British government linked bovine spongiform enceophalopathy
(BSE) to a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).
Two years later, Great Britain
has gone to extraordinary lengths to remove BSE-infected cattle from its
food supply, and the link between BSE and CJD grows ever more suspect.
There never was much more than
speculation and inference behind the alleged connection between the two
diseases. There hasn’t yet been a single verified case of an individual
eating meat from a BSE-infected animal and subsequently contracting any
form of CJD. In addition, so far there is no evidence that the prion believed
to be the cause of BSE exists in the muscle tissue of cows — so far it
has been found only in the brains of the animals.
In fact the sixth annual report
by the UK’s National CJD Surveillance Unit reported that rates of CJD
in Great Britain are consistent with CJD rates in other countries around
the world, including those that are free of BSE. Unlike some animal rights
extremists, the CJD Surveillance report does not rule out the possibility
that the rise in CJD cases in the UK is due to improvements in diagnoses
techniques, concluding, “It is impossible to say with certainty to
what extent these changes reflect an improvement in case ascertainment
and to what extent, if any, changes in incidence.”
“Cretuzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance in the UK, 6th report,” The
National CJD Surveillance Unit, 1997.
David Evans, “Mainland British beef exports ban could be lifted,”
Reuters News Service, June 10, 1998.