Misinformation on ‘Mad Cow’ Disease Threatens America’s Family Farms

The truth about the cause of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as “Mad Cow” disease in England and, to a lesser degree, in France is not what you have probably heard about in the major media. And now, as concerns about the disease are spreading to the United States, many health experts contend that small American family farms may be subjected to destructive government regulations that are being promulgated on false premises in the name of fighting the disease.

This was the topic discussed on the April 28 broadcast of Radio Free America, the weekly call-in talk forum with host Tom Valentine, sponsored by American Free Press. Joining Valentine were two guests, Sally Fallon and Mark Purdy.

Miss Fallon is the founder and president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and publisher of Wise Traditions newsletter. For more information, see the foundation’s web site at westonaprice.org or call (202) 333-4325 and request the free 12-page information packet that is available.

Mark Purdy is an organic dairy farmer from Somerset, England, who refused to obey British government orders to spray his cattle with organophosphates, a chemical, in order to fight the warble fly. Purdy went to court to challenge the order and won. His farm was exempted from using the spray. When the “Mad Cow” epidemic hit England, not one cow in Purdy’s herd developed the disease. Purdy has studied the issue and argues that Mad Cow is not caused by a virus, but is a result of organo phosphate pesticides and toxic mineral overload.

What follows is an edited transcript of the interview. Valentine’s questions are in boldface. Purdy’s responses are in regular text. Miss Fallon’s comments are in italics.


Here in the United States, the media was full of hype about bovine encephalopathy, or “Mad Cow” disease, but you don’t buy the official version of what causes it.

Initially, I was very skeptical of the way the British government handled this thing. Foremost, they blamed it on the fact that cattle were fed with this meat and bonemeal ingredient. What I noticed, however, that this was actually sold all over the world, including the Middle East, South America and South Africa and there were cattle in those countries that never had a case of BSE.

As an organic dairyman, do you use that kind of feed?

It actually didn’t go into organic feed in the early days, because you were allowed to use 20 percent of the conventional feed as it was called. So organic farmers did get that feed. But what was interesting was that there was never a single case of BSE in a cow that had been bred on an organic farm.

So it isn’t necessarily the fact that animal parts are being fed back to an animal that eats grass that is the cause?

No, I think this is a complete myth. There have been 40,000 cows in Britain that were born after the ban on meat and bonemeal, which was in 1998, and they have developed BSE. So how can the meat and bonemeal be the cause?

Some of the other European countries have really over-reacted. Germany put down 40,000 cows just because of a problem in Bavaria with three herds. This is a massive overreaction for a disease that doesn’t spread from cow to cow.

Were organophosphates used on those three cow herds in Germany?

Yes. However, there are two factors involved in this disease. It’s a mineral imbalance caused by the feeding of an artificial milk powder, laced with the metal manganese. When an animal is young, it can’t control the amount of manganese that’s taken up into the brain. What happens is that the brain of a calf that’s been fed on this milk powder is overloaded with manganese to a toxic level. In later life when this animal is treated with a chemical such as a phosphate chemical, it interacts with the manganese and changes it from a safe form into a lethal, chain-reaction type phenomenon. It’s a bit like a nuclear meltdown in the brain.

Humans have a problem with too much manganese. It can affect human babies.

That’s right. The soy infant formula is high in manganese and this is at a time when a baby has no protection against it. Mothers milk and cow’s milk are very low in manganese and yet it is in the soy formula.

I don’t think people realize that baby calves are not given mother’s milk. They are given what’s called a “milk replacer,” a formula for calves, and they deliberately make it high in manganese to get certain types of growth.

So the combination of this pesticide to kill the warble fly and the manganese is what you believe is causing Mad Cow.

This pesticide is so powerful that it is designed to penetrate the cow’s skin and kill off the larvae of the warble fly that actually live inside the cow. They actually pour the pesticide on the back of the cow at the spinal cord, which is where BSE actually starts. This chemical’s effect is to change the molecular shape of certain brain proteins that affect the nerves.

Has your research had any effect on the British viewpoint?

No, the British have such a reductionist mindset on this whole thing. Now, when I look at the humans who are dying of this disease, I think it’s just scandalous. They will not look at any alternative theory that dissents from the government’s theory.

The government’s theory has no evidence whatsoever, but this theory has a load of evidence. For instance, at Cambridge University—and you can’t get any better than that—they did a cell culture study where they looked at a brain cell and bombarded it with manganese and took out the copper and this produced the exact abnormality found in the brains of animals that have died of BSE. Even though this was published in a prestigious journal, it was completely ignored.

The Americans are being much wiser. When the warble fly comes out on the back of the cow, they use organophosphates but they use it as a water-based pour on, or as a powder. So it doesn’t go through the skin and get into the spinal cord.

The organophosphate pesticide is very economical, but the organic farmers I know don’t want to touch it.

It was never used in America on dairy cows because it can contaminate the milk, but in Britain we were using it at an exclusively high-dose rate.

I’m sure this caused the massive epidemic of BSE. In fact, the government compelled the high dose rate. That’s why they won’t accept the alternative explanation, for it would point to the government’s liability for massive damages.

If your thesis is correct, then the more than 100 people who have contracted the human equivalent of BSE didn’t necessarily all eat meat from a BSE cow.

I think in humans it is the same sort of toxic template. If you look at the clusters of human infection in Britain, which are all in rural and coastal areas, not in towns, if it were a matter of beef consumption it would be spread more evenly.

I’ve done environmental studies of these clusters and found very high levels of manganese. They’re all high in oxidizing agents. A lot of the people in Britain who have provided me information indicate, for example, that their children have used head-lice shampoos which contain the same kind of organophosphates. So I think this is probably half of the problem.

In addition, consider the possibility that some of these children affected may have also been brought up on soy-based formula.

I think there is also a genetic element. A lack of copper in the body also seems to be a susceptibility factor.

We get copper from animal foods: meat and seafood and so forth.

Manganese is a necessary dietary element.

But when it accumulates in the brain, that’s when it is a problem.

We Americans should not take this BSE thing for granted. The story that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is putting out is that animals that are outside are much more likely to contract these wasting diseases and I have a feeling that this is going to be used against small farmers and grass-based farms. We do need to be armed with the truth in regard to what is going on with this disease.

The growing concentration in the American food industry is a real problem. We have four processors controlling 80 percent of the beef that goes to four companies that control 90 percent of the meat sales in America. Our Justice Department doesn’t see a problem with this kind of monopoly. The situation is much worse than when Sinclair Lewis wrote The Jungle. The conditions in these packing plants are just horrendous. It all ties in to the BSE problem: the industrialization of livestock management, the use of heavy chemicals, inappropriate feeding and the use of milk substitutes.

They want to raise the cows as fast as they can and as cheaply as they can. Human nutrition is never considered.

However, the alternative system of grass-based farming is growing by leaps and bounds and I’m afraid that the beef industry is going to use the concern over BSE as a method to block the growth of the competition from grass-based farming.

We recognize the need for some type of animal food in the diet, whether it is milk or meat, but when these foods move into the hands of the industry, they become denatured and we get inferior products.

We want to get back to small farms and direct sales between farmers and consumers. In certain states they are already moving against small grass-based farms, such as the chicken farms in Mississippi. The big interests want chickens to be produced on industrial farms.

Mark, do you drink your cows’ milk?

I’ve raised all of my eight children on my cows’ milk and they are the picture of health.