No more bull – avian flu and mad cow exposed
by Howard Lyman
Recent studies of Alzheimer victims’ brains show that a shocking 5.5 to 13 percent of these individuals actually died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This is a serious and dangerous misdiagnosis with huge implications.
Now we need to know how much of that CJD is the new variant type caused by mad cow disease. Our governments claim that only one in a million people will be affected by CJD, yet, with more than five million cases of Alzheimer’s in North America, the studies, so far, tell a very different story.
We need to remember that whether it is mad cow or bird flu, we are only one mutation away from a worldwide pandemic, and that factory farming and humans’ desire to eat meat constitute the root causes. Today, millions of humans could be incubating the brain-wasting disease vCJD, and it could take anywhere from 10 to 40 years before symptoms appear; symptoms very similar to Alzheimer’s, and also 100 percent fatal.
CJD is caused by a protein crystal structure called a prion, while influenza is cause by a virus. Health officials warn that when, not if, the avian flu is transmitted from human to human, we could see half, or about 3.5 billion humans, die from this virulent strain. Just think of half of the houses empty, half of the cars parked and half of the classrooms empty. This is a real possibility.
In the last 100 years, we have seen more than 144 different strains of influenza worldwide. There are two forms: the first circulates in wild fowl at low levels that causes little problem to humans. The second is a highly pathogenic avian influenza that is rare in wild birds, but which causes massive domestic poultry deaths.
Many news reports would have you believe that wild birds are spreading the latest form of avian flu H5N1. The truth is that factory-farming confinement operations are the breeding grounds for the mutations of this deadly threat.
Growing up in Montana, I thought tending the soil was like being in the Garden of Eden. We had birds, trees and fertile soil on our organic farm. Later, when I attended Montana State University, I was educated as a chemical junkie. I was taught better living through chemistry and bought this view of the future hook, line and sinker.
Armed with this mindset, I returned to the family farm and built a factory farm that operated on the model I was taught at Montana State University. I paid little attention to the environment and even less to what we fed the animals. If it was cheap and the animals would eat it, and at the same time gain weight, I thought it was the way of the future.
Feeding dead animal waste to plant-eating cows was like robbing the bank with the help of the sheriff. We never gave a thought to the health of the animals, as long as they made it to slaughter. The idea that turning cows into cannibals could come back to haunt us was the furthest thought from our minds.
Mad cow disease shocked the world. At the same time, governments were scrambling to try and figure out how to word news releases so that meat sales would continue lining the pockets of large multi-national corporations. The bigger the lies, the more believable their stories became. They probably even started to believe their own lies.
The health of consumers was so far down the list of concerns it almost disappeared from the dialogue of reform. In North America, we talked about a firewall that would protect us from the disaster that was unfolding in the UK, even though we all used the same feeding practices, plus the fact that breeding stock was imported from the UK. This had to be the height of stupidity.
Faced with a similar problem with avian flu today, the news release has become the preferred vehicle of protecting the consumer. This approach might work if birds could read. The foundation of poor health for humans is directly related to the greed that has become commonplace in our society. The one thing I wonder is if we will have enough money to bury half of our people.
The media never talks about the role that factory farms play in avian flu, and most consumers think the answer lies in some miracle drug, just waiting for final approval from our world-class health care system. I shudder to think of the disaster just over the horizon that will make a tsunami look like child’s play.
It is not what we know that causes problems; the problem is the untruths that dominate headlines and news reports. It is time to cut through the bull about mad cow and the bird flu so we can alter our direction on the road, rather than being forced to drive off a cliff.
Both mad cow disease and the avian flu H5N1 are directly amplified by factory-farming practices. To feed cows, which are herbivores, a diet of cooked animal flesh is asking for a big problem. When we cram thousands of poultry into crowded pens with weakened immune systems, and feed them antibiotics at a level only high enough to see them through to slaughter, we are providing the perfect environment for viruses to mutate. So, today, we are skirting the edge of another pandemic.
Several avian flu outbreaks have occurred throughout history. In 1918, when my father was in the army, between 40 and 50 million people died worldwide from what was called the Spanish flu, a strain of bird disease that mutated until it was easily passed from human to human. At that time, most world travel was by boat, so the spread from one continent to another took from six to nine months. Today, with air travel, it can take as little as 60 days for a virus, such as H5N1, to spread around the world.
The hope that scientists will be able to develop and manufacture a vaccination to combat this ever-changing strain is highly unlikely. The drug available today, which has shown some ability to work if taken in the very early stages of infection, is being negated by changes in the strain. There is little chance that science will be able to stay ahead of this killer. Of the 175 people diagnosed with H5N1, 95 have died. Our immune system is not programmed for this new strain, and until we acquire the necessary immunity, billions of lives may be lost.
Since 1961, the growth of livestock worldwide has increased an astounding 38 percent. Poultry has quadrupled to almost 18 billion birds and pigs have grown in number to two billion. It is clear that the table is set for a pandemic of biblical proportions.
The link between infected cows and the human form of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was first identified 10 years ago. Other animal diseases, such as monkey pox, HIV/AIDS, West Nile virus, Ebola, SARS and Lyme disease, are moving much more easily from animals to humans than in the past. Only five years ago in England millions of sheep and cows suspected of having foot and mouth disease were killed and burned.
Human behaviour is also a factor in the growing problem of the transmission of animal diseases to our species. We are using drugs designed for people to treat livestock, which enables the pathogens to learn new ways to subvert the drugs’ effectiveness. We are also destroying animal habitat at an alarming rate, forcing animals and humans to live in much closer proximity.
It seems like the problem is so overwhelming that there is nothing we can do. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Every time we spend a dollar, we are voting on the future. Are we spending our resources wisely? When we spend our money on meat produced on a factory farm, we are endorsing the madness that takes place on those farms. Mad cow disease and the bird flu are direct results of the industry’s current practices.
We need to take responsibility for our actions and become a role model for those around us. We do not have to be perfect, but we do need to strive to do better tomorrow. If there is to be a bright future for our children and grandchildren, we must begin to be part of the solution.