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Howard on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" April 15th, 1996

(show segment transcript)


SEGMENT START: "Mad Cow Disease, it's a medical mystery spreading panic across the Atlantic. In England, 20 puzzling deaths of young people in recent years may be linked to a rare and fatal brain disorder in cattle. British scientists believe the victims may have eaten diseased beef, as many as 10 years ago. The afflicted cattle shake and contort like mad dogs before what must be an excruciating and inevitable death."

In human beings, dementia and paralysis precede death. Scientists speculate that cattle contract the disease by feeding on sheep parts that are infected with another disease. A practice officially banned in England in 1989. The disease can take years to develop. McDonald's and Burger King in England have stopped selling British beef. Europe has refused to import it and now Britain will destroy 4.7 million older cows that may have fed sheep parts. The scare is turning a nation of beef eaters away from their favorite food. Could it happen here? American officials say no, but so did the British government until last month. Though the link between cattle and humans has not been definitively proven, and there's no test for Mad Cow Disease, the fear it has generated may destroy an industry and dramaticall alter the way we eat."

PARTICIPANTS:

  • Oprah Winfrey (Host)
  • Howard Lyman (Executive Director of the Humane Society's "Eating with Conscience" Campaign)
  • Dr. Gary Weber (National Cattlemen's Beef Association Representative)
  • Dr. Will Hueston (United States Department of Agriculture Representative)

Oprah: Dr. Gary Weber is with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. He says our government regulations has seen to it that our beef supply is safe. My next guest disagrees, he believes the United States will face a similar crisis within the next ten years, have mercy. Howard Lyman is a former cattle rancher, turned vegetarian. You hear me? Former cattle rancher turned vegetarian, we wanna know why, and Executive Director of the Humane Society's "Eating With Conscience" Campaign. You said this disease cold make aids look like the common cold?

Howard: Absolutely.

Oprah: That's an extreme statement you know?

Howard: Absolutely, and what we're looking at right now is we're following exactly the same path that they followed in England. Ten years of dealing with it as public relations rather than doing something substantial about it. 100,000 cows per year in the United States are fine at night, dead in the morning. The majority of those cows are rounded up, ground up, fed back to other cows. If only one of them has Mad Cow Disease, has the potential to effect thousands. Remember today, the United States, 14% of all cows by volume are ground up, turned into feed, and fed back to other animals.

Oprah: But cows are herbivores, they shouldn't be eating other cows

Howard: That's exactly right, and what we should be doing is exactly what nature says, we should have them eating grass not other cows. We've not only turned them into carnivores, we've turned them into cannibals.

Oprah: Now see, wait a minute, wait a minute. Let me just ask you this right now Howard. How do you know the cows are ground up and fed back to the other cows?

Howard: Oh, I've seen it. These are U.S.D.A. statistics, they're not something we're making up.

Oprah: Now doesn't that concern you all a little bit, right here, hearing that?

Audience: Yeah!

Oprah: It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger!

Audience: (Claps loudly and shouts) yeah!

Oprah: Dr. Gary Weber says we do not have a reason to be concerned, but that in itself is disturbing to me, cows should not be eating other cows!

Dr. Gary Weber: Well, let me clarify that. There is a reason to be concerned. We've learned from the tragedy in Great Britain and made a decision here both government...

Oprah: Well we learned in the past two weeks...

Weber: No, no, we started taking initiatives ten years ago to make sure this never happened here. Let me go back and correct a couple of things. Number one, we do not have BSE in this country and we have a ten year history of surveillance to document that based on science, we do not have it. Also, we have not imported any beef in this country since 1985 from Great Britain.

Oprah: Are we feeding cattle to the cattle?

Weber: There is a limited amount of that done in the United States...

Audience: (groans)

Weber: Hang on just a second now... the food and drug administration...

Oprah: 'cause I have to just tell you that is alarming to me, that is alarming to me.

Weber: Yeah, now keep in mind that before you view the ruminant animal, the cow is simply vegetarian, remember that they drink milk.

Oprah: So you're saying that this could never happen here?

Weber: No, we're doing everything we need to do.

Oprah: I know, but Dr. Weber are you saying that we've been watching this for ten years, are you saying that every cow that's ever died, they've examined the reason why that cow died, before they ground that cow up and fed him to another cow?

Weber: No that's not what I'm saying, I'm saying we do not have the disease here, we've got ten years of data, the best scientists in the world who are looking for this. Over 250 trained technicians and veterinarians around the country. Everyone's watching for this, everyone would like to in a way, want to find this if it is there because they want to protect our industry and of course the public.

Oprah: OK, lets meet this man, Dr. Will Hueston is with the United States Department of Agriculture. Dr. Hueston, you think Mad Cow is a threat to U.S. cattle?

Dr. Will Hueston: I think it's an issue we need to be on top of at all times but there's no evidence at all that we have the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in the United States.

Oprah: What dya' just say?

Audience: (laughs)

Hueston: What I, yes, I've given you a mouthful, but I think it's important Oprah, and especially, and I appreciate you having this show to help clarify some of these issues...

Oprah: Yeah, me too!

Hueston: That the term Mad Cow stimulates a whole lot of feelings and concerns in people, and remember cows can get mad for a lot of reasons. This is a disease, a specific disease in Great Britain, a tragic disease of cattle called Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and we use they initials B.S.E.

Oprah: OK, I wanna know why Howard, who used to be a cattle rancher, it was a cattle rancher you were?

Howard: Yes.

Oprah: Why are you now a vegetarian? What made you turn?

Howard: Well, what I know about what is happening out there with cattle, like feeding cows to cows, I look at it and say that's a risk that I am unwilling to take. The same things that we've heard here today, is exactly what was heard for ten years in England, "Not to worry, we're on top of this." You know, we've had a ban in the United States of feeding sheep to cows for a long time, but when they went out and looked, 25% of the renderers admitted that they were paying no attention to it. Voluntary bans do not work and if we continue to do what we're doing, feeding animals to animals, I believe we are going to be in exactly the same place because I've heard all of these things before in England, we're on top of this, it's safe, we would not put the public at risk, they have put the public at risk.

Oprah: Yeah, of course they said that, yeah. Even Dr. Weber, you know that of course they said that, because what else are they going to say? What else are they going to say? They going to say public you are at risk, some of you may die and the cows are going to go crazy, they couldn't say that.

Howard: Ask yourself the question. Today we could do exactly what the English did and cease feeding cows to cows. Why in the world are we not doing that? Why are we skating around this and continuing to do it when everybody sitting here knows that, that would be the safest thing to do, why is it, why is it? Because we have the greedy that are getting the ear of government instead of the needy and that's exactly why we're doing it.

Audience: (applause)

Oprah: We have a lot of questions about this Mad Cow Disease that we'd like to try to get resolved, because we don't want to just alarm you all, but I have to tell you, I'm thinking about the cattle being fed to the cattle and that's pretty upsetting to me, Yes mam?

Audience Member: I just had one question, I'm confused about why cattle are being fed lamb and why are they being fed beef?

Howard: Well, what it comes down to is about half of the slaughter of animals is non-sellable to humans. They either have to pay to put it into the dump or they sell it for feed, they grind it up turn it into something that looks like brown sugar, add to it all of the animals that died unexpectantly, all of the road kills and the euthinized animals,. add it to em', grind it up and feed it back to other animals. It's about as simple as you can be. We are doing something to an animal that was never intended to be done.

Oprah: OK, so the point I wanted to ask Dr. Weber, and I think I asked this earlier, but let's get this clear, Oh that's your point isn't it?, during the commercial break, oh the lady in black, what was your question? You can ask it.

Audience Member: My question was, are the animals tested before they're ground? Are all of the animals that are ground into feed that are fed to the cows?

Weber: There is no test other than analyzing the brains, and sinc we don't have animals with these symptoms, not every brain is going to be evaluated.

Oprah: OK, so the answer to your question is no.

Weber: Its no, that's correct. No animal can enter the plant that has any of these symptoms, by law. And there's veterinarians and inspections and it doesn't happen Howard and you know it. It doesn't happen.

Howard: Oh come on, let's get real! Any animal that is not staggering around goes in there, you know as well as I do, we have 100,000 cows per year that die. They take 2,700 brains out, of those less than a hundred of them, they look for prions, they were looking for Spongiform. We ended up feeding downed cows to mink, the mink come with the disease, transferred it to animals, the animals came down with it, and your sitting here telling everybody that it's safe, not true.

Weber: Howard, Howard, I understand..

Audience: (applause)

(End of Segment)

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