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Silly Europe Week

by Ric Erickson
Paris:- Friday, 29. March 1996:- Instead of officially announcing the beginning of the annual 'Silly British Week' as anticipated, we have instead been treated to headlines screaming, 'Mad English Cows.'
Headlines After Mrs Thatcher left office in a huff, to become Lady Thatcher, the Brussels eurocrats thought it safe to reinstate 'Silly British Week,' as we continentals had been missing it, somewhat keenly, since M. Charles de Gaulle's retirement.

As Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher was known as the 'Iron Lady' on account of her everpresent, solid, hair-do. Once the danger of being knocked silly by it had passed with the arrival of John Major, who is perceived as a 'good sport,' - 'Silly British Week' has taken on new dimensions - and is not to be confused with the Diana, Charlie, and Ferggie show, which is not a weekly, but a serial which just finished a season and is coming up for renewal.

Even though 'Silly British Week' is called 'Mad English Cows' this year, it has taken the media's fancy and all Europe, parts of Africa, Asia, and nearby satellites are tuned in.

Schadenfreude is a German word that means, taking malicious delight in the problems of others. I use this one handy German word instead of using a verbless sentence of eight words in English.

Tonight there is no schadenfreude in Brussels. Britain, long used to mocking the 'eurocrats' of the EU Commission is eventually going to have to ask them for a lot of money and these 'eurocrats' cannot afford to grin in glee at Britain's plight, because they - we - are going to have to cough up.

As I write this, in the background I hear hourly radio news bulletins about the latest development of the 'Mad Cow' craze. The Parisien wrote this morning that beef sales at Rungis, the Paris wholesale food market, had fallen by 50 percent yesterday, in tandem with sales. Cattle breeders are holding their beef back from the market as well, because the price has dropped below cost.

Le Parisien also says that a poll conducted by Ipsos for Le Point, to be released tomorrow, has found out that 44 percent of the French think there may be a risk to health, while 25 percent think they will reduce consumption. If the market is already down by 50 percent, the poll results may be out of date.

In case you have been out of touch with our modern funky world of 24-hour worldwide allmedia news and horror stories, this is what it is about:

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (also known as 'Mad English Cows') is the name of the infection affecting some beeves. They get it from eating food made out of other infected cattle. There was an outbreak of this in Britain about ten years ago and since that time this type of feed has been banned. Nobody knows what caused the current outbreak.

So far, the cure for one sick cow is to vaporize the whole herd. This seems somewhat drastic, as there are no proved connection of this cattle disease to consumers of beef.

Humans do get a similar affliction named Creutzfelt-Jakob Disease, but nobody knows how; except the experts are pretty sure nobody gets it from cows - and hardly anybody gets it anyway, except possibly cannibals. The only apparent connection between the two diseases, one in beef, the other in humans, is the symptoms: the motor functions of the brain get scrambled and the victim dies.

But despite the extremely rare rate of incidence, this is a story made for horror in fat city - by the global 24-hour worldwide allmedia news organs. It matters not a whit that 586 major scientific experts have said in the media - repeatedly - that the chances of you or me getting 'Mad English Cow' disease, are worse than for winning the lottery; about as good as falling off the earth into outer space.

Mad Cow Logo Paris has issued an official label, to be put on all beef products - to certify that they are French. It is a weak effort - but it is the end of Carnival season and maybe people are tired of jokes. Red, white and blue, in the form of the letters 'VF,' it has 'viande française' printed on it.

I was in my local supermarket today to get some hamburger. The head butcher there said the new French etiquette 'VF' was short for 'vache folle' (loony cow) - and laughed at the government's cleverness of this invention.

This is just another witty way for the government to say things with its shoe in its mouth - even though it is not yet officially 'Silly French Week.'
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