I see that yet another Canadian cow is now suspected of having BSE. This comes after a Manitoba cow was proven to have the disease last week. Allow me now to get on my soapbox an explain why I refuse to eat any beef at all.
After the BSE crisis in Britain, any country that was importing British beef, feed, or any beef or feed from any country that imported British beef or feed, or any beef or feed from any country that imported beef or feed from any country that imported British beef or feed, etc, should have immediately begun testing all cattle regardless of whether or not they were destined for human consumption for BSE (the point being that it needs to be treated as a worldwide problem, which means it can’t be solved simply by restricting some imports). This is because we know almost nothing about how likely it is to be transmitted to anyone who eats beef, how likely it is develop into full vCJD in anyone who becomes infected, or if anyone possesses any kind of resistance or susceptibility to it. Indeed, it has recently come out that the real toll from the human variant of the disease may not be known for many years, in spite of the fact that cases in Britain have somewhat petered out recently.
Knowing all this, there has never been a concerted effort made in either Canada or the US to systematically test all cows for the disease (in fact the USDA recently announced they were cutting the number of cows to be tested). We all know why, of course: the risk that such testing would reveal significant numbers of infected cows (say, 100) is too great, and that would kill public confidence in the beef industry. The same thing would happen to the industry here that happened in Britain. I would think that if they can find a half-dozen or so cows that have BSE without looking very hard, it’s likely there are at least few more that do have the disease that are never caught. How many of those will enter the human food chain? That’s another question we don’t know the answer to, but it’s one that should be easier to answer with more testing.
So why would anyone in their right continue eating beef knowing all this? While I do believe the risk is small, I am not inclined take on that risk unless researchers get a solid handle on the questions posed earlier. Of course, if I will become infected, it will likely be from beef I ate when I was much younger, so any avoidance of beef now will likely do me no good. That being said, I am sufficiently ticked off about the way the issue has been handled by the industry and by Health Canada that I refuse to eat beef any longer. The fact that the beef industry may suffer is of no consequence to me; my boycott is not so much for health reasons as it is because I’m unhappy with the way the problem has been addressed (to the extent that onecan consider the problem ‘addressed’). If they play games with my health like this, they no longer have me as a customer.