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PCRM Issues Recommendations to Avert a Mad Cow Crisis

PCRM recently responded to the budding mad cow epidemic by issuing a set of recommendations to the U.S. government in hopes of protecting the public from the human form of this incurable brain-wasting disease. These recommendations have generated a flurry of media coverage, with PCRM's nutrition department busily responding to consumers in search of the best and safest diet plan.

As the consumption of meat and animal byproducts becomes riskier than ever, switching to a vegan diet is a simple and wise precaution to take. Unfortunately, this obvious option has been ignored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and most of the food industry.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, and its human equivalent, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), was first identified in the United Kingdom in 1996. It is believed that the unnatural process of feeding normally vegetarian animals the ground-up remains of other animals enabled the spread of disease-causing prion proteins from one animal to another, and then to humans. During crucial early stages, the British government failed to take sufficient protective measures to safeguard the public. Now the U.S. government is making the same mistakes. vCJD slowly destroys the brain, resulting in coma and death. With no known cure, nearly 100 infected Europeans have died since 1996.

Many Americans are unaware that diseases related to vCJD are already present in animals in the United States, and little is being done to monitor or curtail their spread. USDA officials and the beef industry have assured us that mad cow disease has not been identified in U.S. cattle, but their investigative procedures leave much to be desired. The brain matter of just 1 in 75,000 cows was examined for BSE between 1990 and 2000, and only when those animals outwardly exhibited mad cow-like symptoms. This is clearly inadequate as cows in the United States are typically slaughtered long before symptoms would show.

PCRM has urged the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services to take stronger measures to educate and protect the public from vCJD.

We propose:

    • Banning the use of animal-derived livestock feeds; prohibiting animal byproducts in all medications, supplements, and cosmetics; and labeling all foods containing animal byproducts (indicating the species of origin).
    • Providing warning labels on all foods that carry a risk of vCJD.
    • Instituting comprehensive monitoring programs.

These precautions are essential, but consumers also need to know that there really is no such thing as "safe" beef. Even when they do not harbor infectious diseases, beef and other animal products are loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat, and are devoid of fiber, complex carbohydrates, and vitamin C. Those who skip the meat aisle dramatically cut their risk of cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and many other conditions, as well as contracting other foodborne illnesses.

Where in the World IS BSE?

Reported confirmed cases, including those in imported animals, as of April 5, 2001


Year of
Initial Report

Great Britain 1986
Guernsey 1987
Isle of Man 1988
Northern Ireland 1988
Ireland (first outside United Kingdom) 1989
Falklands/Malvinas 1989
Oman 1989
Portugal 1990
Switzerland 1990
France 1991
Denmark 1992
Germany 1992
Canada 1993
Italy 1994
Belgium 1997
Luxembourg 1997
Netherlands 1997
Liechtenstein 1998
Spain 2000

SOURCE: World Organization for Animal Health, Paris (for the most up-to-date information, check on the Web at and

Note: Most non-U.K. case reports have come from France, Portugal, Ireland, and Switzerland.


Summer 2001 (Volume X, Number 3)
Summer 2001
Volume X
Number 3

Good Medicine

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