Mad Cow Disease: The Great British Beef Scandal

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Mad Cow Disease: The Great British Beef Scandal


Every Christmas Annie McVey emails photos of her daughter Claire to a "hit-list" of politicians and business people. She reminds them that her daughter’s death in 2000, aged just 15, from the human variant of mad cow disease is, she believes, their fault.

Claire’s decline from a cheerful teen to a young woman barely able to speak and stand is captured with painful clarity in a series of home movies and her mother’s anger is undimmed. “I wanted to know who to blame because I wanted to break their legs.”

Claire is one of nearly 200 people who died in what remains Britain’s most infamous food scandal, when meat from cattle fed on bovine spongiform encephalopathy-infected spinal cords entered the food chain, meaning BSE did the unthinkable and jumped to another species.

The chilling documentary looks hard at spectacular government misjudgement and warns that there’s still no cure, and no way of pinpointing carriers of the disease.


The story of one of Britain's biggest-ever food-related crises, the outbreak of BSE - or mad cow disease - and its human form vCJD, which was first identified in 1996 and has been responsible for around 200 deaths since then. BSE first broke out in the 1980s, spreading rapidly across the country through infected meat-and-bone meal being fed to livestock. It eventually entered the human food chain, leading to the culling of more than four million cows and almost destroyed the British beef industry.

Cast & Crew

Director Will Lorimer
Editor James Gold
Executive Producer Liesel Evans
Documentary Nature