Artwork for The Cows Are Mad

The Cows Are Mad

BBC Radio 4
ScienceHistoryNatural Sciences

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.


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Latest Episodes

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. more

4 months ago

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. more

4 months ago

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 neurolo... more

4 months ago


4.7 out of 5 stars from 48 ratings
  • This reads like a BBC article: too many names thrown around, too many random people's opinions given without much context beyond an opening, a surprisingly little written in plain English about the subject at hand with the focus all going on an oddly character based narrative. By the end it felt like I learned very little throughout two and a half hours of content. I mean it's alright I guess.

    Podcast Addict
    3 months ago
  • This is extremely interesting, very informing, giving good insights into the developing situation. Very balanced. Highly recommended.

    Podcast Addict
    3 months ago
  • Informative and interesting

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

    Apple Podcasts
    Australia4 months ago
  • Fantastic podcast, but it hasn’t been given the time this topic deserves

    This is an amazing podcast that I was referred to after ‘The Coming Storm’. However, I agree with the other commenters that this is too short. Lots of interesting angles to the story that are opened up and not really addressed - this deserves a proper deep dive like The Coming Storm got! more

    Apple Podcasts
    United Kingdom4 months ago
  • Decent but too short

    The cows are mad gives a reasonable picture of how BSE still matters to many people. And gives insights into why it’s still relevant when looking at COVID and other current diseases. more

    Apple Podcasts
    Netherlands4 months ago

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