Web         Gaudiya Discussions
Gaudiya Discussions Archive » CONTEMPORARY ISSUES
Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the modern world. Dealing with the varieties of challenges we face as practicing Gaudiyas amidst Western culture.

Mad cow disease and Ganga burials - Mad cow came from human remains fished out from Ganges

Kulapavana - Fri, 02 Sep 2005 22:57:50 +0530
Source: Vancouver Sun

Mad cow came from human remains

scientist: U.K. cattle likely fed the remains in bone meal imported from the Indian subcontinent, neurologist says

Nic Fleming
Daily Telegraph

September 2, 2005

LONDON -- The mad cow disease epidemic could have been caused by the feeding of material containing human remains to cattle, a scientist claimed Thursday.

Alan Colchester, a professor of neurology at the University of Kent, said the most likely origin of BSE and the subsequent deaths from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was the import from the Indian subcontinent of bone meal containing infected human remains.

Since the first case of BSE was reported in Britain in 1986, the original cause has remained unknown.

The most widely favoured candidate has been the transmission of sheep scrapie, a fatal degenerative disease that affects the nerve system, to cattle through feed.

The spontaneous mutation of a prion, a small protein found in the brain cell membrane, to create a new form of bovine transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) has also been suggested.

Writing in this week's issue of the Lancet, Colchester said neither of these theories had been proved and that he had amassed substantial circumstantial evidence to support his new hypothesis that BSE originated from an earlier human form of the disease.

He said: "The existing theories of the origin of BSE all have significant weaknesses, and so we set out to look for something more plausible, which I think we have found. We propose that human TSE-contaminated material was the cause of BSE, that this was transmitted orally via animal feed and that the infective material originated in the Indian subcontinent.

"Further investigations are needed into the sources of animal by-products used in animal feed manufacture, and into the transmittability of human TSEs to cattle." Britain imported substantial quantities of whole bones, crushed bones and carcass parts for use in the manufacture of fertilizers and animal feed during the 1960s and 1970s, with about half coming from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Hindus believe that it is essential for their remains to be disposed of in a river, preferably the Ganges, and, while the ideal is for bodies to be burnt, often corpses are thrown in whole.

The collection of bones and carcasses has long been an important trade for peasants in India and Pakistan.

Media and eyewitness reports have described human remains being sold to processing mills along with animal material.

The Indian National CJD Registry recorded only 69 cases of CJD between 1968 and 1997, however, Colchester believes that there was substantial under-reporting.

The BSE epidemic peaked in 1992 in Britain with a total of more than 180,000 cases recorded. Variant CJD, the human form of BSE, has killed about 150 people since the first case was recorded in 1995.

Colchester questioned why BSE did not appear earlier given that scrapie has been endemic in Britain for at least 200 years, and that material from sheep has been fed to cattle for at least 70 years.

He also noted that all published attempts to transmit scrapie experimentally to cattle by the oral route have failed.
Kulapavana - Sat, 03 Sep 2005 01:53:13 +0530
Source: Red Herring
Published: September 2, 2005 Author:
For Education and Discussion Only. Not for Commercial Use.

A new theory that mad cow disease arose because British cattle ate the remains of people from South Asia could raise diplomatic eyebrows.

British scientists have suggested that cattle originally developed mad cow disease from eating human remains imported to the United Kingdom from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

The hypothesis is described in the September 3 issue of the medical journal, The Lancet. “The existing theories of origin of BSE all have significant weaknesses,” said the paper. “We propose a new theory that human TSE-contaminated material was the cause of BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy].”

Alan and Nancy Colchester from the University of Kent, and the University of Edinburgh, respectively, propose that the remains of humans who died from neurodegenerative diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) were imported into the U.K. in the 1960s and 1970s, mixed with the carcasses of other mammals.

The U.K. imported hundreds of thousands of tons of bone and soft tissue, of which nearly 50 percent came from Bangladesh, India, or Pakistan, to be used as fertilizer or to manufacture animal feed. The industry was largely unregulated, according to the researchers, and material intended for fertilizers often ended up as food for cows.

“In India and Pakistan, gathering large bones and carcasses from the land and from rivers has long been an important local trade for peasants,” said the paper. “Collectors encounter considerable quantities of human as well as animal remains as a result of religious customs.”

From the Ganges

Hindus believe that bodies should be cremated and the remains subsequently disposed of in a river. However, most cannot afford enough wood for full cremation, according to the researchers.

“Many complete corpses are thrown into the river. The practice occurs on a huge scale,” said the paper. “It is highly likely that the incorporation of human remains into exported materials has occurred at least since the late 1950s and may still be continuing.”

According to the paper, it is reasonable to expect that BSE, or mad cow, started in the U.K. because the country received between two and six times more animal byproducts exported from India and Pakistan than any other country between 1967 and 1969.

The Cost of Mad Cow

The first example of BSE was recorded in 1986. More than 180 000 cases have since been reported in the U.K., with the peak of the epidemic occurring in 1992.

However, it is thought that exposure to whatever caused the disease almost certainly happened prior to 1981, in the 1970s or earlier, according to the researchers. Israel, Japan, Canada, the United States, and 19 European countries have detected BSE in their cattle on a much smaller scale than in the U.K.

So far the human version of the disease, which is thought to come from eating infected beef, has claimed more than 150 cases in the U.K.; four in Ireland, Canada, the U.S., and Japan; nine in France; and one in Italy.

Questioning the Theory

The Colchesters criticize the main theory of BSE’s origins, by which a similar disease in sheep, called scrapie, changed in such a way that it could infect cattle. They say that more than 270 cases of scrapie have been examined, but none bear the characteristics that would link it to BSE.

However, Susarla K. Shankar, professor of neuropathology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, in Bangalore, India, has several problems with the new hypothesis.

“Personally, I think that the evidence is not strong enough. It is a little far-fetched,” he told “The Ganges is infested with crocodiles. Most of the bodies are destroyed there.

"Successful transmission by feeding animals with this purportedly infective tissue seems unjustified, especially as pooling with other animal protein would have occurred in the meat-bone meal exported to the U.K. and could conceivably result in an enormous and unspecified dilution that would greatly reduce infectivity,” he added.

Professor Shankar is also concerned that such a theory could be misconstrued and cause political repercussions. “I think that until it is studied properly, they should not spread the word,” he said.

The British researchers too are aware of the diplomatic tensions their theory could spark.

“Both exporting and importing countries are likely to be sensitive to the implications of our hypotheses, and may feel [pressured] to issue denials without adequate investigation,” said the paper. “We do not claim that our theory is proved, but unquestionably warrants further investigation.”
Kulapavana - Sat, 03 Sep 2005 01:55:52 +0530
My biggest problem with that theory is that there are no reported cases of this disease in India. Especially among people.