Mad Cows And Dementia

My mother was recently visiting with a friend. They got around to talking about their kids and she mentioned that Jane and I have been vegan for awhile, and that we've been blogging about our vegan experiences. My mom, who is not vegan by the way (hi mom!), explained veganism to her friend and discussed the cruelty perpetrated on the animals we, as a society, eat. (Go mom!) My mom expressed that it made her sad, to which her friend replied, "I don't care, I like meat." Wow. I know others have talked about experiencing this, but so far, the worst I've heard is, "I don't want to know, I still want to eat meat...."

If the environmental reasons aren't enough, here's a little something I've been reading about which should get those people who like meat to reconsider, at least the beef eaters.

I've been reading Thanking the Monkey and on page 192 Karen Dawn writes

How rampant is mad cow disease? We don't know. A study at Yale found that of forty-six patients clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer's, six were proven to have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) at autopsy. (Ms. Dawn cites Guy McKahann et al., Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders 1989 - pages 100-109.) Other studies have shown that mad cow prions can cause a disease with a molecular signature indistinguishable from sporadic CJD. Therefore there is no way to determine if the many deaths from CJD misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's are actually linked to mad cow disease. (Ms. Dawn cites Michael Greger, MD, "Could Mad Cow Disease Already Be Kliling Thousands of Americans Every Year?", January 7, 2004.) So we cannot know how widespread mad cow disease is in the United States, or whether humans are infected. It seems that the government is in no rush to help us find out.

Yikes! Then there's always this blurb from the National Institutes of Health page on CJD.

The appearance of the new variant of CJD (nv-CJD or v-CJD) in several younger than average people in Great Britain and France has led to concern that BSE may be transmitted to humans through consumption of contaminated beef. Although laboratory tests have shown a strong similarity between the prions causing BSE and v-CJD, there is no direct proof to support this theory.

Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders (NIH)

The more I read, the happier I am that I'm vegan.


  1. Good article, thanks for posting. Everyday I learn new information that solidifies my decision to be a vegetarian/vegan. Two years ago I called people who “went veggie” freaks… now I am one. Go figure.

    Love what you are doing man… keep spreading the info!


  2. Thanks for the good (and sobering) info. There’s also some good info on links between diet and Alzheimer’s here:

    In addition to informing “I don’t care” people about health hazards from animal products, there’s also the “Well then you won’t mind watching a few minutes of this slaughterhouse video” tactic. Personally, I think people do care at some level, that affinity to other sentient individuals is part of our basic makeup. It just gets suppressed, rationalized away, normalized, and un-learned in our self-gratification, exploitative society.

  3. I agree Gary. As a former meat eater, I can tell you that the slaughterhouse video does work. I couldn’t eat flesh with a clear conscience after watching it.

  4. Folloow-on thought…Another approach to “I don’t care” is “If it’s just the taste and texture you like, here’s some Smart BBQ / veggie ham sandwich which essentially has the same taste and texture as its meat equivalent.” If they balk, that could reveal other, more subtle reasons for not giving up meat, such as fear of changing their diet, or vegaphobia.

  5. I think some people at times are afraid of change. Others really don’t seem to care; tossing the “I don’t care” statement is letting the person know that they won’t be shocked into becoming vegetarian/vegan.

    I’ve encountered that in my lifetime some of the ones that have said it are now vegan or have reduced their consumption of animal products drastically.

    I haven’t read Thanking the Monkey yet however I’ll be ordering it.

  6. Hi Mark,
    Thanks. Yes, we laugh that we’re “those people” now too. But you live and learn, eh? And yes, the slaughterhouse footage… or for us Earthlings, can really cement the intention to be vegan!

    Hi Gary,
    Thanks for the link.
    As for people not caring… in this instance, it was my mom having the conversation (I know of this woman, but have never met her), and she certainly wasn’t going down that avenue. I’m not sure if I would press on if I were the one having the conversation. Ideally I’d like to see everyone give up animal products, but people have the right to make their own decisions. And in this day and age, although it’s ethically reprehensible to me, eating animal products is not a crime. So if someone were to tell me they don’t care, I might continue the conversation, but I wouldn’t push it. My feeling is that I do better by living the lifestyle than proselytizing. People don’t want to hear what you have to say unless they’re interested in the topic. To get them interested you have to live a life not of deprivation, but choices and options.

    Hi Opal,
    I never thought of it from that perspective, but yes, it could be looked at as a warning that you can’t convince them. I would imagine that this person, being in her late 60s, means that she is firmly entrenched in her way of eating, it’s served her well so far and she has definite likes. I do find it very interesting that my mom is crusading for our cause, being that she continues to eat meat.

  7. @Lane,
    I think that is fabulous that your mom is actively campaigning for the two of you that is great.

    I have a few older aunts like that (my mother is like that also) and even though it’s been years since I made the switch (1992) some of my aunts still have the same attitudes. Two of them are finally coming around to making changes in their lifestyles.

    I think the ongoing health issues they are having is a factor. They are tired of taking medication and have asked me whether there are alternatives. I write about alternative healing, health, and nutrition. I guess you could say I’ve become the “go to” person in my family.

  8. Sorry, I should have clarified: I was speaking in general terms. Your mom did great! I didn’t mean to imply that your mom should have pursued my suggested tactics. (What, she didn’t have any Vegan Outreach pamphlets on hand?! ­čÖé )

    The “I don’t care” response does intrigue me, however, and I think that often it belies deeper psychological dynamics. I’m working on a blog post or two that delves into that.

  9. I would never eat beef but I do let my children eat Buffalo, chicken, turkey and fish. But they can only have it if it is fed the diet the animal was born to eat, like grass. We buy only local meat and the animals are treated well. I think animals slaughtered whil ein pain, sick or under stress release stress hormones into the meat. I just think it is an unhealthy product with little nutritional value. Both of my daughters have a severe sensitivity to soy and corn products so I have to be very careful that what they eat also ate healthy before it was slaughtered. I have to read every single label at the grocery to avoid soy and corn. Geez, even bread contains soy! No wonder this nation is full of fat people. They eat the same stuff given to cattle to fatten them up artificially, soy and corn.

  10. Hi Autumn,

    In all likelihood, the animals are not treated well.

    Turkeys bred for meat are so top-heavy that they cannot fly or mate on their own; they typically suffer from chronic joint problems.

    Chickens grown for meat suffer the same fate. They are human-engineered to grow huge breasts with lots of “white meat” and their skeletal systems and hearts and other internal organs cannot keep up. Even under ideal conditions, such as the farmed animal sanctuary at which I volunteer, these animals – rescued from farms – suffer from their unnaturally large shapes, becoming lame or dying very young.

    Cows are dehorned and castrated without painkillers.

    Animals destined to be slaughtered are typically starved for one to four days, since their last meals would not have enough enough time to be converted into profitable meat.

    Chickens and turkeys are not covered by the Humane Slaughter Act. They may legally be fully conscious as they bleed to death and are dunked into scalding hot water to loosen their feathers. From numerous conversations with slaughterhouse workers, inspectors, and investigators, these atrocities happen regularly in slaughterhouses.

    Chickens and turkeys on farms are denied their mothers. In nature, hens dote on their chicks, protect them with their wings, let them crawl on their backs…they are very good mothers.

    With other animals on farms, we separate mother and child long before they would separate on their own. We pull piglets away from their mothers when only weeks old. The normal weaning period is months. Calves in nature may stay with herds for many years. But none of the animals on farms last that long. On dairy farms, we steal calves from their mothers when only two days old.

    At most farms, including small family farms, not much is spent on vet care for sick animals; it would cut too much into profits; they are just sent to slaughter.

    Nearly all farmed animals are killed very young. Some chickens are still peeping on the slaughterhouse line.

    The sobering and inescapable fact is that when animals are commodities in a business, worth more dead than alive, and generally worth more obese than lean, we should not expect them to be treated nicely as we would treat our companion animals.

    Farmed animals are obese due to a number of factors, primarily centuries of intensive breeding to make them that way. At the animal sanctuary, the birds are fed optimum diets and graze freely. But they remain huge because of their genes.

    Here are some possible non-soy options:

    – In Google or a search engine type in “recipe vegan -soy -tofu” with the hyphens to block out most soy results.

    – Check out cookbooks such as “Alternative Vegan” which has no soy or “Veganomicon” which has a lot of non-soy dishes.

    – Check out ethnic cuisines like Indian that are vegetable-oriented but generally free of soy.

    – Some veggie meat products, such as Amy’s sausages, seitan, and Field Roast products, and a lot of the veggie chicken at vegan-friendly restaurants have no soy.

  11. Hi Opal,
    Jane and I have been wondering ourselves, how many boomers will be trying to transition to a vegan diet to wean themselves from the medications they’re being prescribed…

    Hi Gary,
    Of course my mom has pamphlets to hand out (kidding). I’m curious to read what you have to say about the psychological reasons behind “I don’t care.”

    Hi Autumn,
    Wow, sounds like shopping in the grocery store is not at all fun for you! Yes, soy and corn are in everything. Gary has a few great suggestions if you’d like to transition some of your children’s meals away from meat. My sympathies. You must have a terrible time eating out.

    Hi Gary,
    As always, thank you for your in depth response to Autumn. I would add Chinese food and Mexican food to the list. Mexican cuisine can be heavy on corn however, so Autumn, you’d have to really quiz the waiters.

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