11 episodes

The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the weirdest things any of us has lived through. But there was another sickness that once stalked the nation and turned things very strange for a while.

In the 1990s Britain was hit by an epidemic of a fatal neurological disease in cows that also killed 178 humans. Science was split between government assurances of safety and dissidents warning of disaster. Trust in officials took a battering. Facts became blurred. And the grisly truth about our global industrialised meat industry was revealed.

30 years on, scientists and activists are still searching for answers to two big questions - where did mad cow disease originally come from and how did humans get infected? This crazy tale of cannibal cows, competing origin theories, and scientific dead ends lives on as the madness continues to spread.

The Cows Are Mad BBC Radio 4

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 14 Ratings

The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the weirdest things any of us has lived through. But there was another sickness that once stalked the nation and turned things very strange for a while.

In the 1990s Britain was hit by an epidemic of a fatal neurological disease in cows that also killed 178 humans. Science was split between government assurances of safety and dissidents warning of disaster. Trust in officials took a battering. Facts became blurred. And the grisly truth about our global industrialised meat industry was revealed.

30 years on, scientists and activists are still searching for answers to two big questions - where did mad cow disease originally come from and how did humans get infected? This crazy tale of cannibal cows, competing origin theories, and scientific dead ends lives on as the madness continues to spread.

    10. Zombie Deer

    10. Zombie Deer

    Online videos of crazed deer crashing through the American countryside are racking up views online. They have the deer version of BSE – Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD - and it's now spread to northern Europe too. Scientists are worried.
    History repeats itself as hunters speculate on the origin theories of this deer prion disease. The US government insists people are safe, but conspiracy theories about a hoax or cover up are starting to spread online.
    Written, presented and produced by Lucy Proctor

    • 15 min
    9. Cow Eats Man

    9. Cow Eats Man

    Did mad cow disease actually come from humans? Alan Colchester, the doctor who raised suspicions about the Kent meat rendering plant, has one of the most disturbing theories so far.
    He publishes an academic paper that suggests a grisly international trade in decomposing animal remains could have brought the disease to the UK, after human bones picked out of the Ganges in India is unknowingly mixed with the cargo.
    Will there ever be an answer to the origin of BSE? Scientist John Collinge is still looking.
    Written, presented and produced by Lucy Proctor

    • 14 min
    8. Reaction

    8. Reaction

    Organic farmer Mark Purdey’s followers roll their concerns about pesticides into the public inquiry into BSE. A group of farmers who claim they were poisoned by pesticides join forces with green activists and work to get their own fears about neurological disorders in rural Britain onto the news agenda.
    They fail to convince government scientists that pesticides are to blame for BSE, but their trust in mainstream science is destroyed forever – then Covid hits.
    Written, presented and produced by Lucy Proctor

    • 14 min
    7. Factor X

    7. Factor X

    The BSE crisis becomes a lightning rod for other safety issues in the countryside. Organic farmer Mark Purdey becomes convinced pesticides are to blame for making cows go mad, and thinks they caused vCJD in humans too.
    He sets out to prove his claims by crowd-funding for lab experiments. He becomes the star of the alternative mad cow disease community, for people who refuse to believe the official government narrative on BSE – or any other official narrative, for that matter.
    Written, presented and produced by Lucy Proctor

    • 15 min
    6. Stray Burger

    6. Stray Burger

    Mother Christine Lord becomes obsessed with the now infamous episode of agriculture minister John Gummer feeding his daughter a beef burger on TV in 1990. She wants to know what killed her son - and beef is the prime suspect. But as she investigates, she finds all is not as it seems.
    Three decades on from the incident, John Gummer casts doubt on the widely-believed story that infected beef is what caused vCJD in humans.
    Written, presented and produced by Lucy Proctor

    • 15 min
    5. D-Day

    5. D-Day

    The truth finally comes out, as the government confirms a new brain disease affecting humans. In late 1995 eminent neurologist John Collinge is brought onto the government advisory panel on BSE. Cases of a new brain disease in humans are confirmed - and it looks the same as BSE in cows. Then the crisis hits.
    John Collinge is brought into an underground situation room where the government and its scientific advisors are trying to work out what to tell the public. Everyone involved up to this point has to account for their actions.
    Written, presented and produced by Lucy Proctor.

    • 14 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
14 Ratings

14 Ratings

JulesMcGooles ,

Informative and interesting

Informative and interesting, well presented, relevant interviews. Short episodes and easy to listen to, volume levels even. Well worth a listen.

Scotty&);-3679 ,

Fascinating

Very interesting, thoroughly enjoyed it

Chelseadecendant ,

Great Pod.

Well researched, balanced informative podcast . Thanks Lucy!

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