The death of two young Michigan men due to the rare brain condition Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) “raised fears that the human form of mad cow disease, or something similar, had emerged in the USA,” USA Today reported earlier this week. But according to University of Michigan neurologist Norman Foster, the men seem to have suffered from traditional CJD, not the new variant vCJD that some have linked to mad cow. Foster, who treated both men, adds: “We feel as comfortable as anyone can that this is not related to either CWD or [mad cow disease].”
But anti-meat and anti-industry activists never let the facts never stand in the way of a good rant. John Stauber of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), who wrote a book called Mad Cow USA, has a lot of publicity to gain from the mad cow scare campaign, and he has trumpeted the Michigan cases as well as a recent Midwest spate of chronic wasting disease, an ailment impacting deer and elk (and one that, according to USA Today‘s report, “is not known to cause illness in humans.”)
Stauber suggests omniscience when he claims the men must have eaten “venison, after living their entire lives in that state,” and that chronic wasting disease was the culprit in their deaths. This is just his latest effort to exploit fear and illness to promote his message.
In 1997, CMD warned that a mad cow-type disease could already be infecting U.S. livestock. (Stauber did not provide documentation to back this up.) And now, he is pushing “mad deer scares” — despite a report last month from Dr. Stanley Prusiner, who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the proteins thought to cause CWD and mad cow, which concluded that “those who eat the meat of deer infected with chronic wasting disease [CWD] are in no danger.”
What’s Stauber’s motive? “By the time we see people confirmed as dying of CWD, those deaths are just going to be the tip of the iceberg,” he has said. And if he can make people think those deaths are real, it’s very good for Stauber’s own PR.