Game farms and chromic wasting disease
Mad Cow Home ... Best Links ... Search this site

Elk CWD spreading on game farms
France reports two more cases of mad cow disease
Is Alzheimers transmissible?
Sheep contaminated with prions
Damages for six living with CJD fear
Ministry had plan to use BSE 'spies'
Commission proposes further amendment to UK beef export ban
Dr. Spock recommends milk-free, meat-free diet in posthumous edition
Mad cow impacts take toll on farmers

Elk disease prompts protective quarantine of Philipsburg, Hardin game farms

Tue, 23 Jun 1998 (AP)
HELENA- A debilitating disease that showed up in an elk transported from a Montana game farm to Oklahoma has prompted a protective quarantine at two game farms, State Veterinarian Arnold Gertonson said Monday.

One is the Kesler Game Farm near Philipsburg, where the elk was sold, and the other is near Hardin where other Kesler elk have been shipped, Gertonson said.

The infected elk was shipped two years ago, and Gertonson said it is unknown if the fatal disease was present in the elk then. "The disease has a long incubation of unknown duration," Gertonson said of chronic wasting disease. It causes deer and elk to waste away and die.

"We are taking the actions necessary at this time to protect the game farms and wild herds," Gertonson said. Gertonson said the only way to diagnose the disease is through an autopsy. He has not yet decided if any of the game farm animals in Philipsburg or Hardin will be killed for testing.

"We want to work with the game farmers as far as the economic effect, but will do what we need to protect the animals," Gertonson said. The first case in a game farm elk was identified in last December in South Dakota. Cases in wild deer were first found in Colorado in 1981 and it has since spread to southeast Wyoming.

The disease is always fatal to the animal, according to Karen Zackheim of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, but is not believed to pose a threat to humans. [This is an inaccurate and irresponsible statement, very similar to those made by MAFF in early days of BSE -- webmaster] .

A study of elk in Yellowstone County area was performed two years ago and the disease was not found, Zackheim said. [No such study has been published; the number of animals tested is unknown. It may be necessary to re-examine elk brains using newer antibody techniques. -- webmaster]

She said that area was studied because it is along a natural migration route to the infected southeastern Wyoming herd. "I really feel we do not have it in the wild in Montana," Zackheim said.

The Department of Livestock has notified other states where animals from the Kesler farm were shipped. Gertonson said the department learned of the situation late last week but is working as quickly as possible to determine if the disease is present in Montana.

Mad elk and deer disease

AP reported Wyoming wildlife officials believe commercial trading of big game animals may contribute to the rapid spread of a fatal disease affecting elk and mule deer in several Western states.

Little is known about "chronic wasting disease," which infects animals' nervous systems and is related to "mad cow disease." Game farms in Montana and South Dakota were placed under quarantine. Wildlife officials said trading captive game animals provides an "infrastructure for disease transmission."

Elk producers confident disease under control

June 2/98 Western Producer Ed White
Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarian George Luterbach was cited as saying that four Saskatchewan elk herds are quarantined and all provincial herds banned from moving animals because of a recent case of chronic wasting disease, adding, "We are talking here about a single, isolated case. The movement ban was put in as a temporary measure and we expect to modify the ban within a week." The story says that in early April an elk died on a Swift Current area farm. The owner sent the carcass to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon. An autopsy showed signs in the elk of chronic wasting disease, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy related to, but not the same as scrapie in sheep and mad cow disease in cattle. It causes elk to waste away and sometimes act bizarrely. Tissue samples were sent to the CFIA, which also found signs of CWD, as did a second opinion by the world expert on the disease. The Swift Current farm was quarantined, and after talking to the provincial elk farmers association, the CFIA banned movement of all farmed elk in Saskatchewan. It's suspected that CWD is passed from mothers to offspring, so the dead animal's mother and five siblings were exterminated, even though they had no signs of the disease. Test results from these animals are not yet available, but should be within days, Luterbach said.

Elk, cattle growers say leaked memo set out to hurt them

July 2/98 Western Producer Ed White
Livestock producers are outraged by what they call an anti-elk industry campaign run by hostile elements in Saskatchewan's environment department. And the elk industry thinks the recent controversy over a leaked environment department memo is a perfect example of why Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management should be forced to take its hands off the industry.

Saskatchewan Elk Breeders Association executive director Terri Harris was qutoed as saying, "This looks to us like an attempt to discredit the industry," regarding an internal environment department memo about a recent case of chronic wasting disease in an elk, adding, "It was obviously dropped off by someone in the department of the environment." The story says that the memo found its way to a Saskatchewan city newspaper and to CBC radio, where its contents were repeated.

Harris added that the news that another case of chronic wasting disease has been found in a Saskatchewan elk herd is nothing to panic about, but the memo vastly exaggerates the danger and could promote public hysteria. The confidential memo was quoted as saying "chronic wasting disease could have a devastating effect on Saskatchewan and Canadian beef export markets . Harris said it is wrong to directly link mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease, a point of view the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association agrees with.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarian George Luterbach, the man overseeing control of the disease, was quoted as saying, it is "absolutely false" to claim chronic wasting disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, are the same. Cattle producers are angry with the environment department for letting slip what they see as an inflammatory briefing note.

Harris further stated that her organization believes that environment minister Lorne Scott and his highest officials support the elk industry, but some conservation officers and regional officials don't like it and are trying to sabotage it. That's why the language in the memo is so strong and that's why it was leaked to the urban media, Harris said.

France reports two more cases of mad cow disease

June 29/98 Reuters
PARIS -- The French farm ministry was cited as saying today that two new cases of the mad cow disease have been found in western France and the herd in both cases, one near Angers and the other near Saint Malo, was destroyed. The story notes that five cases of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) have been reported in France this year, and 36 since 1990.

France reports yet another mad cow disease case

 Reuters North America  Mon, Jul 6, 1998
A new case of mad cow disease has been found in the Loire Valley region in central France and the herd was destroyed, the Farm Ministry said on Monday.

It was the seventh case of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) reported in France this year, and the 37th since 1990.

Britain has been worst affected by the disease. The European Union slapped a beef export ban on Britain after the government admitted in March 1996 a possible link between BSE and its fatal human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).

Studies show sheep contaminated with prions

June 13, 1998 (Reuters)
PARIS, - French afternoon daily Le Monde said on Saturday several unpublished scientific studies in Britain had found in sheep tiny proteins identical to those believed to cause so-called mad cow disease in cattle.

The paper quoted an anonymous French scientist as saying the discovery raised serious health questions and that authorities would have to consider how best to react.

"Everything suggests that British sheep, like cattle, were stricken through the administration of contaminated animal feed," the French scientist was quoted as saying. "It is urgent to immediately evaluate the extent of this new health problem and to take the safety steps needed."

The paper said the discovery was worrying to European Union officials when they were considering the lifting of a two year old ban on British beef exports.

"Our British colleagues have just isolated a colony of prions identical to those of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a sheep herd that were believed to be suffering from scrapie," the paper quoted the French scientist as saying.

Scientists believe the BSE epidemic that broke out in British cattle herds in 1986 was caused by cattle feed containing carcasses of sheep that had died of scrapie, a prion brain disease similar to BSE.

The European Union slapped a beef export ban on Britain after the government admitted in March 1996 a possible link between BSE and a new strain of Creuzfeld-Jacob disease, the human form of the brain wasting BSE.

Le Monde said officials in London, Paris and Brussels were studying the best way to announce the discovery while avoiding the sort of disastrous consequences that resulted from London's 1996 announcement.

Mad cow-BSE could have contamninated sheep

Le Monde Paris - June 13, Reuters
British studies have established that the agent of mad cow has contaminated sheep Le Monde reports Saturday. This data would confer an unprecedented dimension to the public health and political crisis provoked by prion diseases, underscores the daily on the strength of anonymous statements from a French expert.

Brussels foresees lifting the embargo which has prohibited Great Britain from exporting its meats and beef products since March 1996.

"Our colleagues have just isolated a strain of prions identical to those of BSE in flocks of sheep that were thought to have scrapie," declared an expert interviewed by Le Monde. The whole question would be from now on to determine the risks run by consummers of potential infected ovine (sheep) meats. The question is, from a health standpoint, all the more important because this patholotical agent is much more broadly disseminated within the ovine body than it can be in the bovine, underscores this expert. The daily specifies that this data, still confidential, has not yet been published in the specialized press.

Since the emergence of the "mad cow" crisis, the possibility that BSE could jump the species barrier and contaminate sheep was one of the major fears of the European politicians responsible. Before the announcement in March 1996 by the British government of the transmission of BSE to man, experts consider that "scrapie in sheep" did not particularly represent a risk to man. British experimental work had demonstrated, afterwards, that sheep could, experimentally and by the oral route, be contaminated by BSE. France then took a series of preventive health meaures. In July 1996, scrapie became a reportable disease and the consumption of sick animals was forbidden.


An unpublished paper may show that one of the many UK strains of scrapie plays out the same way as BSE in the strain-typing glycoform tests.

This could mean simply that the resolving power of the tests is inadequate and if enough strains are looked at, sooner or later they will start to pile up in the same places.

Or it could mean that this strain was the origin of the BSE epidemic. It could also mean that this strain of sheep scrapie directly causes some overlooked fraction of sporadic CJD or even nvCJD.

Or could it more likely be the long-feared back-transfer of BSE to sheep? This was postulated following the experimental demonstration of infection via the oral route [Foster J D et al (1996) "Detection of BSE infectivity in brain and spleen of experimentally infected sheep", Veterinary Record, 1 June, 546-548. ]:

In the experiments, inoculation of 0.5 ml of a 10 per cent homogenate from a pool of four brains of BSE-confirmed cows resulted in five out of six sheep succumbing with incubation periods of between 440 days and 2553 days, dependent on their PrP genotypes. Oral challenge of six sheep with 50 ml of 1 percent of the same homogenate (equivalent to 0.5 g of brain per sheep) resulted in one sheep succumbing, with an incubation period of 734 days. Brain and spleen were recovered from the latter case and from one of the inoculation cases (both sheep being of the same PrP genotype, alanine/alanine 136 and glutamine/glutamine 171), and subjected separately to strain-typing experiments. All four samples resulted in the characteristic "BSE signature" totally different from that of scrapie".

Is Alzheimers transmissible?

 Reuters North America  Tue, Jun 30, 1998  By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
Three teams of scientists reported major progress in diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's disease Tuesday. The reports all offer new insight into how Alzheimer's develops and offer new targets for treating the incurable brain disease, which causes dementia and certain death.

"What we're seeing emerge in these studies is a clearer picture of what may be the cascade of events that leads to brain cell dysfunction and death in Alzheimer's disease," said Zaven Khachaturian, director of the Alzheimer's Association's Ronald & Nancy Reagan Research Institute. Alzheimer's, in which the brain slowly deteriorates, is the single most common cause of dementia. It affects four million Americans alone, including former president Ronald Reagan. The Alzheimer's Association predicts that 14 million Americans could be afflicted by the year 2050.

There is no cure although some drugs may slow its progression for a short time. At least six different genes are involved. All three reports in the journal Nature Medicine focus on a protein known as amyloid beta. In Alzheimer's the protein becomes deformed and is found in unusual deposits, known as plaques, and stringy tangles of brain cells seen in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. But exactly what amyloid beta does is unclear. Another protein, known as tau, is also involved, but again its role is unclear.

Claudio Soto of the New York University Medical Center and colleagues said they found a possible way to block the bad effects of amyloid deposits. They created a peptide -- a smaller version of a protein -- that, in a test tube, stopped stringy tangles from forming. The peptide, known as iAb5, also dissolved existing fibers and blocked brain cell death caused by amyloid beta.

"These findings may provide the basis for a new therapeutic approach to prevent amyloidosis in Alzheimer's disease," they wrote. "If science shows us that amyloid is, in fact, a causal factor in Alzheimer's, this may prove to be a potent treatment method," Khachaturian said in a statement. The approach would have to be shown to work first in animals -- and that is hard to do, as Alzheimer's seems unique to humans.

But Changiz Geula and colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and Dr. Bruce Yankner of Children's Hospital there, managed to induce brain damage in older rhesus monkeys by injecting beta-amyloid into their brains. Injecting amyloid into younger monkeys did not work, and it does not work as well in species less-closely related to humans, such as marmosets and rats.

They said their experiment seemed to show that amyloid was only toxic to the aged brain and its effects were also somehow restricted to higher primates. Living a long time may somehow make the brain more susceptible, they said. "This observation may explain why individuals with Down's syndrome can develop amyloid deposits at an early age, but do not exhibit cognitive decline until later in adult life," they added.

In a third report, Dr. D. Riesner of Heinrich Heine Universitat in Dusseldorf, Germany said he and colleagues had come up with a test for Alzheimer's using spinal fluid. They said they used their test to pick out 15 people with Alzheimer's, and 19 people with other neurological conditions. Their test checks for amyloid beta in the cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes the brain and spine.

Currently, Alzheimer's can only be diagnosed using memory and cognition tests to check how the brain is working. Certain diagnosis is made by looking at the brain after death. Riesner's group said their test could possibly be used with prion diseases, such as the deadly Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and other illnesses related to mad cow disease.

Ministry had plan to use bse 'spies'

June 19/98 The British Times David Brown
THE Ministry of Agriculture considered using ramblers and conservationists as "spies" to report farmers who dumped dead cattle and sheep in the countryside in breach of BSE and other health controls. But, according to testimony at the BSE inquiry in London yesterday, the ministry dropped the idea to avoid criticism that it was not doing enough itself to collect the evidence.

Dumping problems arose from the ban on meat and bone meal in food for livestock. Instead of paying for carcasses, knackermen began charging farmers to collect them. Farmers objected to the fees and either buried the animals on their farms or disposed of them in other ways - disrupting plans to ensure that all BSE-infected stock posed no public threat.

By July 1991, ministry vets were hearing reports of livestock being dumped on land owned by public utilities, including British Gas, British Rail and hydro-electric companies. Dumping on Forestry Commission land in Wales became a major problem.

Commission proposes further amendment to UK beef export ban

DN: IP/98/518     Date: 1998-06-10
The EU Commission proposes further amendment to UK beef export ban The European Commission approved a draft proposal to change legislation on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in relation to the export of beef and beef products from the United Kingdom. The proposal sets the rules for a future partial lift of the ban on the export of beef and beef products under the so-called Date-based Export Scheme (DBES).

This scheme will allow the dispatch, under certain criteria, of deboned fresh meat and products thereof from eligible animals born after 1 August 1996, the date at which the meat-and-bone meal ban was in place and properly enforced. To address the risk of maternal transmission, animals are only eligible if they are not the offspring of BSE affected dams.

The proposal will now be submitted to the Standing Veterinary Committee for an opinion which requires a qualified majority and is then adopted by the Commission. In the absence of a qualified vote, it is sent to the Council of Ministers who can adopt it by qualified majority or reject it by a simple majority of member states. In the case where one or other of these conditions is not met the Commission can adopt the proposal.

In the European Council of 22 June 1996, leading to the Florence Agreement, the steps for a gradual removal of the prohibitions were set out. One of the steps foreseen is the scheme for export of meat from animals born after the effective implementation of the ban on the feeding of mammalian meat-and-bone meal to all farm animals in the UK. Furthermore, the implementation of an effective system of bovine identification by the UK was laid down as one of the preconditions for this step. In accordance with the Florence Agreement the Commission verified by inspection missions the implementation of the preconditions including the reliable implementation of the feed ban and a bovine passport system.

The United Kingdom first put forward in October 1997 a detailed proposal for a Date-based Export Scheme (DBES). This proposal was submitted to the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC), which reported on the proposal on 9 December 1997, 23 January 1998 and, in the form of a final report on a revised proposal, on 20 February 1998. The SSC recommended amongst others that the date-based export scheme should be combined with the compulsory slaughter of offspring of BSE-cases, that the scheme should be limited to deboned meat of cattle between 6 and 30 months of age and that evidence should be provided that the dam survived 6 months after the birth of the animal from which the products are derived.

It also recommended that the ultimate acceptability of the programme should depend on documentation on effective implementation and monitoring of the feed ban, the selective cull and tracing and identification systems of animals and products thereof. Fully in accordance with the scientific advice, the Commission now proposes the legal framework for a partial lifting of the ban under the rules of the DBES. This scheme will allow the dispatch of deboned fresh meat and meat products from eligible animals born and reared in the United Kingdom after 1 August 1996. A bovine animal is eligible for export provided all records of its lifetime and movements are recorded either in the animal's official passport or on an official computerised identification and tracing system and if the animal is more than 6 months but less than 30 months of age.

Furthermore evidence must be provided that the dam of the eligible animals has lived for at least 6 months after the birth and has not contracted BSE. A supplementary condition for the DBES is the slaughtering of all offspring born after 1 August 1996 of dams in which BSE has been confirmed. The conditions relating to the controls in general and the approval and supervision of the establishments are identical to the strict measures which have been laid down for the Export Certified Herds Scheme (ECHS).

Approved establishments can handle exclusively products from the ECHS, DBES and products of non-UK origin, which are eligible for dispatch from the UK. Before the partial lifting of the ban becomes effective a control mission by the Food and Veterinary Office will have to be carried out on all aspects of the DBES. The mission will in particular address the controls of eligibility, the supervision of the establishments dedicated to the DBES, traceability of animals and meat and the offspring cull, which has to be carried out before dispatch of meat may resume.

Particular attention will also be paid to the improvements in the level of supervision of all slaughterhouses and cutting plants throughout the UK.

Damages for six living with CJD dread

Fri, Jun 19, 1998 By Natalie Martin, PA News
Six people who run the risk of developing Creutzfeld Jakob Disease - the human form of mad cow disease - after being treated with contaminated growth hormone as children were today awarded damages up to 300,000 for resulting psychiatric illness.

Delivering judgment at the High Court sitting at Lincoln Crown Court, Mr Justice Morland ruled the plaintiffs had suffered as a result of being told they may develop CJD - although none yet has the disease. The six, who are to receive between 3,500 and 300,000, will pave the way for up to 40 other similar cases to claim compensation.

Mr Justice Morland said the psychiatric illnesses suffered by the six were not concerned with a traumatic event in the past or with irrational fears stemming from any trauma. He said the six had "rational fears" about one day "succumbing to a ghastly lingering death from CJD.

"No amount of psychotherapy or counselling can obliterate the truth. Each plaintiff remains indefinitely at risk of CJD which is inevitably fatal and not subject to amelioration or treatment." He added: "For an individual plaintiff the risk may be remote or, if it eventuates, may not occur for decades. But it is a real risk."

The six people involved in today's hearing were teacher Paul Andrews, 32, from Putney, south west London who is to receive around 300,000; former factory worker Neil Scanlon, 36, from Ebbw Vale, Cardiff, who is to receive 160,000; jockey David Lockhart, 27, from Newmarket, Suffolk, who was awarded 13,000; nurse Philip Johnston, 25, who is to receive 26,000 and his sister Claire, 29, both from Staffordshire, who is to receive 16,000; and chef Justin Parkes, 27, from Essex who was awarded 3,500. An earlier hearing was told between 1959 and 1985 nearly 2,000 children in the UK whose growth was stunted because of a growth hormone deficiency were treated with a hormone taken from the pituitary gland of corpses.

Of the 2,000, 27 people have gone on to develop the fatal condition and 25 of them have died. It is not known how many more of the 2,000 will go on to develop CJD which causes victims to lose control of their movements and mental faculties. The Human Growth Hormone Programme was ended in May, 1985, after several children who had been treated in the United States died of CJD.

In July, 1996, Mr Justice Morland ruled that the Department of Health was negligent in not heeding the warning of Dr Alan Dickinson who in 1977 told the Medical Research Council about the risk of contracting CJD from human growth hormone treatment. The judge said it was only natural that those at risk would worry if they suffered any episode such as dizziness or faintness - fearing it was the first symptom of the condition. In his judgment he stressed that the plaintiffs had had to prove that, on the balance of probabilities they had suffered a genuine psychiatric illness caused by becoming aware of the risk of CJD. It was not enough to be upset, distressed or worried by the risk, he said.

"A recurring theme is the sense of betrayal and anger. Each plaintiff trusting their parents who, in turn, had trusted their clinician and had undergone a long period of unpleasant therapy." He added that in most cases the growth hormone treatment had not been necessary but was elective and designed to enhance their enjoyment of life by increasing their stature.

"In many cases they had endured for 10 years or more during childhood twice or thrive weekly injections and reached adulthood with the hope of a normal life ahead of them," he said. The judge added that that hope was dashed when after a number of years they received a letter out of the blue or heard on TV that, for the rest of their lives, they had to live with the awful risk of CJD.


Britain-CJD Suit

AP France Fri, Jun 19, 1998
LINCOLN, England -- Six people who fear they may develop a fatal brain disease because they were treated with defective human growth hormone won substantial damages from the government Friday. The six were all treated as children and say they have developed psychiatric problems as a result of being told that they may be incubating the Creutzfeld-Jakob disease agent. The awards ranged from 3,500 pounds (dlrs 5,800) to 300,000 pounds (dlrs 500,000).

Judge Michael Morland, presiding at the Crown Court in Lincoln, said the psychiatric illnesses suffered by the six stemmed from rational fears of "succumbing to a ghastly lingering death from CJD." "No amount of psychotherapy or counselling can obliterate the truth. Each plaintiff remains indefinitely at risk of CJD which is inevitably fatal and not subject to amelioration or treatment." He added: "For an individual plaintiff the risk may be remote or, if it eventuates, may not occur for decades. But it is a real risk."

They were representative cases from a group of 35 people treated with growth hormone extracted from corpses after July 1, 1977, and who now fear they will contract the incurable CJD.

Between 1959 and 1985, nearly 2,000 children in the United Kingdom whose growth was stunted because of a growth hormone deficiency were treated with hormones. The program was stopped in May, 1985, after several children who had been treated in the United States died of CJD. One form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has been tentatively linked to bovine spongiform encephalpathy, or "mad cow disease."

Dr. Spock recommends milk-free, meat-free diet in posthumous edition

June 20, 1998 
Benjamin Spock, who revolutionized parenting for the baby-boom generation, has left behind a pediatricians' stew by recommending a vegetarian diet devoid of dairy products after the age of 2.

Spock suggests posthumously in the seventh edition of his best-selling "Baby and Child Care" that kids should have a diet free of dairy products and meat."Children can get plenty of protein and iron from vegetables, beans and other plant foods that avoid the fat and cholesterol that are in animal products," the book says.

The New York Times reported Saturday that many nutritionists and pediatricians -- including Spock's co-author, Steven J. Parker -- believe the dietary recommendation from the influential pediatrician is too extreme. Parker said Spock believed his vegetarian diet had "given him a new lease on life," and that he wanted the book to be "in the forefront" of linking animal foods and disease.

Spock, whose book is second only to the Bible as the best-selling book in U.S. history, died March 15 at his home in La Jolla, Calif. He was 94. Some of Spock's friends, including pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton of Boston, suggest that the baby guru's recommendations are "absolutely insane."

"Meat is an excellent source of the iron and protein children need, and to take away milk from children, I think that's really dangerous. Milk is needed for calcium and vitamin D," Brazelton told the Times. Since the first edition of "Baby and Child Care" was published in 1946, Spock had consistently recommended meat and milk products for children.Spock took up vegetarianism in 1991 after a series of illnesses. That conversion helped him lose 50 pounds and regain his ability to walk, said his wife, Mary Morgan.

Mad Cow impacts on farmers

 AP US & World Fri, Jun 19, 1998 By DIRK BEVERIDGE AP Business Writer

NEWARK, England -- The worst of Britain's "mad cow" crisis looks like it's over, but that brings little joy to the cattlemen at the Newark livestock auction. They see no quick end to their nightmare. The European Commission wants to end the worldwide ban on British beef exports that has cost the industry billions, but many farmers remain skeptical.

After more than two years out of the global market, the folks who raise beef in Britain say that even if they can resume exports, finding markets will be hard. "It's killed the job," laments farmer George Noble. "It's killed the farm jobs."

The cattle moved briskly through the Newark auction ring at the busy Wednesday morning auction, but the raucous bustle concealed the depression gripping the industry. Farmers say they're lucky to get two-thirds of the price they used to command.

Many seethe when discussing the political hurdles that lay ahead, including stiff opposition from Germany, before British beef can be exported again. "My views on Europe aren't printable," said John Iredale, a Gainsborough farmer. "I don't see what gives Europe the right to ban our beef worldwide anyway."

At the Newark branch of the National Farmers Union, group secretary Andrew Smith says many cattle farmers have switched to other products and more have dug into savings to subsidize losses. That sounds painfully familiar to Tom and Maureen Goy, who cut back their Lincolnshire herd of bulls from 200 head to 100.

"You work seven days and nights, and at the end, you're living on your savings," Mrs. Goy said. They came to Newark to sell three bulls for about $660 each, compared with prices of about $990 to $1,155 before the beef scare.

Many cattle farmers just gave up. Don Wilkinson had almost 600 head of cattle on his North Yorkshire farm when the British government announced on March 20, 1996, it had found a link between mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, and a new variant of a fatal human brain ailment, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

Since the 1960s, Wilkinson had been buying calves from dairy herds then raising them to market weight. Since dairy herds had the most BSE problems, sales of dairy cattle for beef were banned.

Wilkinson had never had a BSE cow on his farm and he figured the troubles would blow over in a few months, so he sold about three dozen animals a month at a loss he would not disclose. The crisis wore on, and Wilkinson ran out of cows. Now, he's gone to work certifying the quality of products on other farms. "We were all tarnished with the same brush," Wilkinson said. "It's all a bit galling." The low cattle prices spread economic troubles throughout rural Britain.

"Farmers grumble traditionally. It's part of their culture," said Anthony Parrott, who sells plows, trailers and John Deere tractors from the Maltby's dealership at the Newark market. "But this time they've got something to grumble about."

Mad Cow Home ... Best Links ... Search this site