"Most of us felt that the connection was most likely", said Dr. Michael Harrington, an expert on mad-cow disease at the California Institute of Technology, "But this gives us much stronger evidence".
Pressure on McDonald's had come from a McLibel Support Campaign Press Release, sent out one day before McDonald's announcement, which quoted an exchange between Dave Morris (McLibel defendant) and Paul Preston (McDonald's UK President) in the witness box. (Quote taken from the official daily court transcript, July 1st 1994):
Paul Preston: "If we thought beef was a health hazard to the citizens of the world you may rest assured we would not sell beef. We are not going to endanger our reputation with our customers - under any way shape or form. We are not going to endanger people."
It is clear that McDonald's were unable to fly in the face of their President's promises - made under oath in the witness box at the High Courts of Justice - and had no choice but to immediately cease selling beef. Nowhere in the country can a Big Mac, Quarterpounder or Cheeseburger now be purchased from their stores, although they are still selling non-beef products (including milk, which has not yet been exonerated from having links with BSE).
McDonald's claim to have complete confidence in the safety of British beef but say that their customers wish them to take this action: "We believe that British beef is safe. However, we cannot ignore the fact that recent announcements have led to a growing loss of consumer confidence in British beef which has not been restored," the company said in yesterday's statement.
McDonald's is the UK's biggest purchaser of beef in the UK, accounting for £50 million-worth a year. Parts of 1 in 12 UK cattle end up in their burgers. The news that they are suspending sale of UK beef could represent a significant step towards the end of the British Meat Industry. Animal farming and human reliance on animal products in food is a major cause of human ill-health, environmental destruction, water pollution, resource waste, and animal suffering.
Of course the evidence has suggested this for years, but protecting the meat, dairy and farming industries is more important to the government than the health of the people.
Despite the admission that a connection between CJD and BSE is likely, the government is STILL claiming that British beef is safe to eat because, since 1989, cows diagnosed as having BSE have been destroyed and all specified bovine offal, thought to contain the infective agent, have been removed and not passed into the human food chain.
Reassurances have not prevented millions from stopping eating beef, or thousands of schools from taking beef of the school menu, and many countries (five European countries alone so far) have banned imports of British beef.
Previous independent studies have shown that for every one infected cow discovered and removed from the slaughter house, at least two more infected cows get passed as safe and enter the food chain.
Leading microbiologist Professor Richard Lacey, who has long warned of the potential dangers to humans of mad cow disease, forecast a rapid rise in incidence of the CJD: "The worst case scenario is that about half the human population is vulnerable to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease according to their genes and it is distinctly possible that perhaps five to 50% of people have eaten enough of the infected agent to produce the disease over the years. This is why we are now estimating that next century the typical number of CJD cases will run at between 5,000 and 500,000 a year."
Scientists have also begun to say that the infective agent is not limited to the specified bovine offal but is found throughout the carcass.
It is clear that whatever the government choose to tell the public or what reassurances they try to give, British beef is NOT safe to eat. A disease such as CJD, with such horrifying and deadly effects, HAS to be guilty until proven innocent.
It is this 'profits before people' mentality which is the cause of so many modern dietary problems and is inevitably the focus of a wide range of criticism. The well-documented disregard of BSE whistle-blowers has now been exposed as a scandal - attempts to use libel laws to suppress criticism of the food industry will also fail.
We call for the widest possible public scrutiny and debate about modern food production systems and about diet in general, and we believe that society should choose healthy, organic alternatives."
Helen Steel and Dave Morris, the McLibel Defendants