DEAR READERS: Chronic wasting disease threatens the health of wildlife, livestock and humans in Western Canada, according to the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute. The group suggests establishing a deer-depopulated buffer zone around caribou habitats as a first step.
Monkeys fed CWD-infected meat in 2006 showed signs of low-level infection when they were retested two years ago, suggesting that the prions that cause CWD could pose a risk to people who eat meat from sick animals, says Hermann Schaetzl, a veterinary scientist at the University of Calgary. (Full story: CBC News, 7/15)
This disease is widespread in the U.S., as well. Consumers of venison should be wary -- as should all pet owners and animal lovers, due to venison's inclusion in many pet foods.
In laboratory tests, researchers at the University of Alberta successfully blocked propagation of the prion that causes CWD. The findings suggest that selective breeding of captive deer could reduce CWD prevalence. (Full story: ualberta.ca, 6/29) (I do not advocate deer farming -- for humane and environmental reasons, and because deer farms in Minnesota are a significant source of CWD.) According to earlier studies, an enzyme called keratinase can deactivate prions, which may offer some hope to prevent this scourge -- as well as the related disease in cattle, which devastated the U.K. cattle industry with "mad cow" disease and put consumers at risk from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
DEAR DR. FOX: I read your concerns about Minnesota's wolves, but these problems occur in all states where they still exist. What can be done to stop their slaughter? -- B.K., Washington, D.C.
DEAR B.K.: As I detail in my essay "A Nation Divided: Lupophobia -- Wolf Protection or Managed Slaughter?" on my website (drfoxonehealth.com), there is a fundamental, ideological split in the American citizenry. In my opinion, this is an "ethical civil war" between those who have reverential respect for all beings and those who tend toward speciesism -- the belief that humans are superior to all others. Civil society is endangered by such divisive inhumanity and lack of social and eco-justice.
A reversal of the delisting decision and reinstatement of federal protections for wolves throughout their historic range is called for. The shift to state management of wolves has already proved the alarming need to protect gray wolves from the small faction of people who want to eradicate their populations across the United States. Go to projectcoyote.org to support a petition to get our wolves protected.
As I constantly emphasize, wolves help keep deer and forests healthy, preventing overgrazing/browsing and removing the sick and aged from the herds. They also likely play a significant role in reducing the spread of chronic wasting disease, Lyme disease and other illnesses.
WHERE EPIDEMICS AND PANDEMICS COME FROM
Three-quarters of novel or emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, and the international wildlife trade -- estimated to be a $10 billion market each year -- is a major source of risk. A series of public health crises have put the issue in the spotlight, shifting attention from diseases of economically important livestock species to those that are most likely to cause problems in humans. Experts say a One Health approach that accounts for the entire human-animal-ecosystem interface is the solution to mitigating risk. (Full story: JAVMA News, 6/23)
ECOCIDE DEFINED; ANIMAL SENTIENCE RECOGNIZED
An international panel of 12 legal experts has drafted an official definition of ecocide after months of deliberation. The definition was released with a proposed law that would be the fifth crime prosecuted by the International Criminal Court if enacted. The experts have defined ecocide as "unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts." If the law attached is enacted, those accused of ecocide would be tried alongside those who have been accused of crimes against humanity and genocide. (From EcoWatch.com)
Another positive initiative comes from the U.K., where animals are to be formally recognized as sentient beings by the law for the first time. A set of government measures on animal rights will include halting most live animal exports and a ban on the import of hunting trophies.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)