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l January 2004 l

The Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 3, No 8 l

L A S T  W O R D

Mad Cow Disease comes to America  

Swaraj Singh


America just had its first Mad Cow disease case. This happened in Sunny Dene Ranch in Mabton, 40 miles south of Yakima. Yakima is the largest city in the central part of Washington state. Yakima is 30 miles south of Ellensburg, where we live. Yakima is the fruit capitol of Washington state. Orchards around Yakima produce more apples, pears, peaches, plums, and cherries probably more than anywhere else in America or in the world. South of Yakima, there are many dairy farms and cattle ranches where beef is raised. Most of the labor on the farms, orchards, dairy farms, and ranches is Hispanic and is generally poor with a high unemployment rate. The adverse publicity of Mad Cow disease is going to hurt this area more.

The scientific name for Mad Cow disease is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), because it causes degeneration of the brain, resulting in the formation of tiny holes in the brain which become like a sponge. The name "Mad Cow disease" comes from mad seizures of the cow months or years after the infection. This disease can also affect human beings if they consume cattle products contaminated by Mad Cow disease. This leads to a fatal degenerative brain disorder called Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (VCJD) . The disease is carried by infection carrying abnormal proteins which are known as prions. The American scientist Stanley Prusiner won the Nobel prize in 1997 for his work in the area of prions.

Beef is very popular in America and is also exported to many countries. An average American consumes 65 pounds of beef in a year. America exports about 3.5 billion dollars worth of beef to other countries. Japan is the biggest importer of American beef. Besides Japan, the other countries which are major importers of the American beef are Mexico, South Korea, Canada, Australia, and China. All of these countries are imposing restrictions on the import of American beef. In May of last year, America imposed restrictions on Canadian beef after a case of Mad Cow disease was found in Alberta. Is this tit for tat?

All of this adverse publicity and the restrictions have hurt the beef industry. Chicago is the biggest beef market in the country. Prices fell to the maximum allowed limit in one day. It is estimated that the price of cows has fallen between 10% to 20%. The year 2003 has not been particularly good for the economy. Many jobs have been lost. The price of the dollar has also fallen. The dollar lost about 50% of its value against the Euro in the year 2003. The trade defecit with China has set a record, it was more than 120 billion dollars. This Mad Cow scare is not going to help these figures. Beef export has already fallen 90% since the cow with Mad Cow disease was found.

In the last two weeks, the stock market was going up, particularly after the arrest of Saddam Hussein, because hopes were raised of ending terrorism. The stock market reacted negatively to the reports of Mad Cow disease. Terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Karbala, Kabul, Tel Aviv, and the second attack on the life of General Pervez Musharraf, a staunch ally, in one day can not be very encouraging news for the antiterrorist campaign. These incidents may also raise questions about controlling terrorism after Saddam’s capture. The Mad Cow disease scare can only compound the problems.

After the Second World War, there was a mass migration of the black population from the South to the North. These plantation workers became industrial workers in the Northern industrial metropolitan cities. Concentrations of the poor population in the downtown areas led to Ghettoization of the cities and the movement of the white middle class to suburbs, called "Suburbia flight."

Now, there is a big Hispanic migration. Most of the Hispanics are working in farms and orchards. Hispanics have become the largest minority. Most of them are very poor and have a high unemployment rate. Will this lead to Ghettoization of large areas of America? Because, as opposed to the blacks who were mainly confined to the center cities, the Hispanics are scattered in large areas.

In 1986, Mad Cow disease was first seen in England. 143 people died there (out of a total 153 who have died in the whole world) of this disease. 3.5 million cows had to be destroyed, leading to the devastation of the British beef industry. Of course, Mad Cow disease is scary but polarization of America can pose a much more serious challenge than Mad Cow disease. We certainly hope that the Mad Cow disease scare does not hurt the already impoverished area of the central part of Washington state.

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