Remember Mad Cow Disease?

I am going on holiday, so luckily for all of you there won’t be any new columns here next week.  The horror resumes May 10.

I hear that mad cow disease is back for the first time since 2006.  Ah, 2006.  The year the iPhone was released, putting millions of other cell phones out of work.  Cell phones that have long since run out of unemployment benefits and are now taking odd jobs such as cleaning gutters and producing reality television shows.

When I heard about mad cow disease in those days, I pictured cows sitting in their living rooms with scowls on their faces.  A bull comes in from the kitchen with a beer and newspaper.

“What’s wrong honey,” he asks his wife, who is sitting on the couch and looking upset.

“Oh, nothing,” she says, looking away.

“Really?  You’re not mad about anything?”

“No really.  I’m not.”

“I don’t know, honey.  Usually this means you’re mad about something.  Is it because I wore that wrinkled shirt to your parents’ last night?”


“I knew it.  Look, I told you, I was in a rush.  That old McDonald has been breathing down my neck about those reports, and I just didn’t have time.  Okay?”  He takes a sip of his beer.  “Well…I’m going back in the kitchen.”

But no, apparently the “mad” of the mad cow disease, aka bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is characterized more by a cow’s inability to stand.  In male humans, this symptom takes the form of an inability to mow the lawn or check that the garage door is locked, even though it was checked an hour ago and the male human is already in bed and half asleep.

A major concern with mad cow disease is controlling its spread.  This is accomplished by not feeding cattle meat to other cattle.  But a glitch in the system is that cattle meat may be fed to pigs, whose meat is in turn fed to other cattle.  And then those cattle are fed to humans at steak restaurants, many of which give a choice of two sides, or sometimes two helpings of the same side, but never any substitutions.

Of course, the most important question surrounding mad cow disease, more than the beef industry or whether the safety record of triple-decker cheeseburgers will be besmirched, is the name.  Wikipedia is entertaining input as to whether “Bovine spongiform encephalopathy” should be re-filed under “Mad-cow disease.”  I support the change.  As much as I like the way “spongiform encephalopathy” rolls off my tongue and bespatters the face of the person I’m talking to, I don’t think the scientific terminology would have captured the public’s attention the same way.

Because everyone knows what “mad” means.  Everyone has been mad at one point or another.  Maybe people are mad just reading this blog post.  And I’m sure that they would have classified a “mad human disease” a long, long time ago, had it not been apparent that the infection rate would be close to 100%, and that there would be no cure.

7 thoughts on “Remember Mad Cow Disease?

  1. I traveled to England in 2006 and the concerns restricted us from walking on footpaths and we had to walk through some kind of sanitation puddle to “clean” our shoes. What was interesting is when I returned to the US and resumed donating blood, it was not that visit that put me on the not allowed to donate list. It was the fact that I had worked with the US Army in Germany for 6 months back in 1981 and 1982…..just one more way we were taking care of our military. I bet you can play with THAT topic!!

    1. A sanitizing puddle – that is pretty crazy. What was in this puddle? What if it was something that ruined hard wood floors? Then you’d have mad floor disease. And people would have to step in a special puddle for the floors after stepping in the special puddle for the cows. All of England would be stepping from one puddle to another. Although I’ve heard that’s like a typical day in London.

  2. Excellent explanation on this popular disease that scares a lot of people and yet little is known by the masses about it. Now hopefully they’re learning. It’s just a matter of cannibalism gone wild. We shouldn’t feed animals to their own species. And when humans eat humans it was discovered in the 1800’s that as long as you don’t eat the brain your chances of getting mad human drops way down. It’s usually in association with eating the brain of your own species, so not so much the meat portions. Just FYI :0) -Ben at and also

    1. Thank you, Ben. I was really shocked to hear that. And the brain, of all parts – I guess the filet mignon and prime rib is too valuable to feed to other cows. Good to know. They should tell people more about that in the reports.

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