SHOULD WE EAT BEEF?
NOHA Speaker Howard Lyman gave us a vivid picture of the large-scale raising of beef in the United States. Cattle are confined together and antibiotics regularly injected in an attempt to control some of the resulting diseases. Most unnatural of all, for years their food has included pellets manufactured by the rendering companies, which take all kinds of dead animals, including "road kill" and animal parts from slaughtering houses and convert all this into food for live animals. As we know, cattle are herbivores. Given a choice, they would never eat their dead relatives and other animals.
We all know the tragic consequences of these feeding practices in England, where "Mad Cow disease" (spongiform encephalitis) was first reported. There the disease developed into an epidemic, which could no longer be ignored and denied by the government, especially when a disturbing number of people came down with the human form of spongiform encephalitis (Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD)). Ordinarily, worldwide CJD strikes only one person in a million and then usually an older person. However, in England young people got this awful, brain-wasting, and always fatal disease and scientists have shown many times that spongiform encephalitis can be transferred from one mammal species to another. In fact, it seems to be both transmissible and inherited.
What causes spongiform encephalitis? Some scientists now think the cause is a deformed or slightly altered protein that has been named a "prion." The normal form of this protein is part of all mammalian hereditary. The infectious prion often has exactly the same amino acid sequence as the normal healthy form. The theory is that the infectious prion is folded differently and that it can cause other normal prions to flip and then clump into the infectious form. In any case, the infectious agent is amazingly difficult to destroy. A scientist buried an infected hamster brain in his back yard for three years. When he dug it up, it was less infectious but could still kill. He also heated an infectious agent from a sheep or goat ("scrapie") at "680 degrees Fahrenheit—a temperature adequate to melt lead and to reduce a good-sized slab of meat to fine ash." After being subjected to all this heat, the agent was still somewhat infectious, raising the specter that autoclaving in a hospital and even incineration probably will not completely eliminate the problem.
In England cows with spongiform encephalitis demonstrated all sorts of abnormal behavior and were called "mad cows." In the United States many cows are so-called "downers," which means that they are no longer able to stand, fall down, and die, without any particular abnormal behavior. Dr. Richard Marsh, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, found that at a certain mink ranch many of the animals, fed downer cows, died of spongiform encephalitis. He warned cattle ranchers of possible problems and he injected brain tissue from an infected, dead mink into many different species of animals including two Holstein bull calves. The bulls both died but not with any of the "mad cow" symptoms that had appeared in England. These two animals simply collapsed in their stalls and died. They appeared exactly like simple "downers." Of course, there can be many causes for animals to collapse, most of them having nothing to do with some form of spongiform encephalitis. However, scientific tests confirmed that these two bulls had died of spongiform encephalitis and their tissue backpassaged into mink caused the mink to die of their form of the disease. For years, before he died in 1997, Professor Marsh warned cattlemen not to feed animal products to their stock.
On account of all this information, we can be skeptical and avoid eating meat from animals that have been given "protein enhancement," a flowery term for pellets derived from various dead animals, some possibly harboring spongiform encephalitis. Interestingly, many glandular products and, of course, gelatin for supplement capsules are all derived from animals.
As we know, there are many other reasons for avoiding eating the beef from the supermarket. Confined cattle are routinely injected with antibiotics. Then many other diseases develop, including antibiotic-resistant salmonella.
Worldwide, our speaker, Howard Lyman, points out that rain forests are cleared and destroyed, just to grow cattle so we can have more hamburgers. Cattle are grown in many parts of the world where they are a completely inappropriate species. NOHA Honorary Member Michael Crawford, PhD, who has studied animal and human nutrition worldwide, points out that the native eland, whose meat is delicious, are perfectly adapted to exceedingly dry conditions in Africa, where cattle die.
Summing up: To enjoy beef we want to find farms where cattle are never fed animal products. Where they graze in pastures on grass and clover and other forage that we could not consume. Where they are never given "protein enhancements" or shot with hormones to increase growth. We want healthy animals who have room enough to roam; not obese animals, shot with hormones for growth and confined in feedlots where tons of manure collect and pollute.
We want to find farms that have never used pesticides on the land or crops. We don’t want pesticides sprayed onto our fruits and vegetables. However, if we eat meat coming from animals, who eat pesticided feed, then we ourselves receive a highly concentrated dose of these poisons.
Rampton, Sheldon and John Stauber, Mad Cow U. S. A., Could the Nightmare Happen Here? Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 1997.
Lyman, Howard F. with Glen Merzer, Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat, Scribner, New York, 1998.
Clark, John B., PhD, "Notes from an Organic Farmer," The Human Ecologist, (45):1,5, Spring 1990.
Article from NOHA NEWS, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, Spring 1999, pages 1-2.