Once Blamed On Cults, Some Now See A Secret Operation In Cattle 'Mutilations'
We have been hearing about them for years: the inexplicable mutilation of animals on farms or ranchland. Indeed, the cases first emerged in the glare of media attention in the late 1960s, and exploded during the 1970s: reports that farm animals, usually cattle, were being found mysteriously dead, with no sign of disease, human intervention, or predators.
To make the issue more tantalizing yet, and often gruesome, the animals were frequently found missing their blood, along with their eyes, ears, tongues, lips, eyelids, reproductive organs, or other body parts, which seemed to have been removed in a surgical fashion.
The bizarre absence of certain organs led many to believe that satanic cults operating in the west were responsible, the cases first emerging in places like Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming but eventually reported in other states, along with Canada. "In a two-year period, 1975-1977, in two Colorado counties alone, there were nearly 200 reports of mutilated cattle," says a recent report by the National Institute for Discovery Science in Nevada.
Was it just legend? A hoax? Stuff of the lunatic fringe? In time, it seemed to go beyond that.
"In March 1997 there was a rancher and his wife who had just tagged a cow in northeastern Utah, an 84-pound cow, at 10:00 in the morning," says Dr. Colm Kelleher, a biochemist who works at the small institute. "They walked about 300 yards away and were busy tagging other newborn animals in the pasture and about 45 minutes later their dog started going absolutely crazy and they turned around and walked back and they found the animal they had tagged 45 minutes previously to be lying mutilated on the grass, pretty well where they had tagged it, and the thing is there was no sound, no evidence of intrusion by anybody, there was not a drop of blood on the grass, even though it was carefully looked at. Forensic analysis and veterinary pathology analysis demonstrated that sharp instruments had been used on the animal. An ear was cut off at the skull. Somebody used sharp instruments on this property. We had a tracker on the property quite quickly, a man who makes his living tracking wild animals and can essentially find prints. There was no sign of vehicles and so no sign of tracks."
So extensive was the phenomenon even before that, in the 1970s, that Colorado's governor, Richard D. Lamm, labeled it "one of the greatest outrages in the history of the western cattle industry" and added that it was "no longer possible to blame predators."
What made it difficult to put the blame on coyotes, wolves, or other animals was the neat way the carcasses had been severed, and the absence of tracks or footprints. So sophisticated was the removal that some speculated a kind of laser cutting device had been employed. Others, wandering close to the realm of science fiction, suggested that it was the work of aliens.
"Although animal mutilation research has been immersed in a miasma of wild speculation, false claims and unscientific methodology, there is considerable evidence that the phenomenon is real," notes the report.
"The whole cult thing has been investigated exhaustively by half the police forces in the different states since the 1970s and just doesn't hold water," Dr. Kelleher says. "Plus, the methodology is way more skilled than your average cult."
But this leaves the unanswered questions of who and why.
According to the Nevada research group, the answer is chilling: that the mutilations may be linked to the unpublicized spread of an infectious agent among North American cattle, and that the removal of select tissue from "mutilated" farm animals fits the pattern of a "covert infectious disease monitoring program." The group was not able to determine who might be engineering the monitoring program, but point out that it has coincided with both biological warfare experimentation and the reported incidences in the west of "chronic wasting disease" or TSE in animals such as deer. This affliction, caused by what scientists believe are errant proteins, or "prions," is related to what has become known as "mad-cow" disease in Europe, but apparently has taken a silent, "subclinical" form in the U.S. and Canada, argue the scientists. In other words, say these researchers, someone is trying to keep tabs on a disease that may be slowly but widely spreading beneath the public radar.
The implications -- and the questions -- are potentially vast. Is a silent plague threatening? Could it affect humans? Are prions from a source that is in nature -- or something that has been bioengineered?
There was a link between the intense animal mutilation waves of the 1970s-1980s, and the emergence of infectious disease in North America during and after this period, the researchers point out. Moreover, the infectious diseases erupted near military bases. "In the 1970s, in addition to the scores of cases in Colorado, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of animal mutilation reports were investigated by local law enforcement with cases occurring in 15 states, from South Dakota and Montana to New Mexico and Texas," says the group. "Chronic waste disease was first seen in 1967 in captive deer at Colorado State University research station in Fort Collins, Colorado. Shortly after the animal mutilation epidemic in Colorado died down, beginning in 1981, cases of CWD were found in free-ranging deer and elk."
Let us caution that there are still those who argue that predators may be to blame, or that it may still involve cult activity. Moreover, the Nevada group, which includes former astronaut Edgar Mitchell and a team of scientists with various doctoral degrees as consultants, seems to focus on what we would term the "occult" or parapsychology. But the research appears to be thorough and objective, both dispelling myths and at the same time raising an alarm that there may be a new infectious agent in our midst.
The Nevada scientists said they found that oxindole, a byproduct of a sedative known as tryptophan, was present in the eye fluid of a small number of mysteriously mutilated animals, suggesting use of the sedative. They also point out that ears, eyes, lips, tongues, and other parts commonly missing from such animals are where infectious prions would tend to concentrate -- once more indicating what has been transpiring may be a clandestine monitoring program.
The scientists point out that infectious brain tissue from Africa was imported and stored at Fort Detrick, Maryland, during the 1960s and that there was infectious testing in multiple species. "One of the highest profile early series of mutilations occurred near Soccorro, New Mexico," says the report. "Socorro is located at the northern end of White Sands Missile Range. In late 2002-early 2003, out of 25 mule deer tested from White Sands, four tested positive [for chronic-wasting]," which in deer has now spread as far east as Michigan.
In Canada, says the report, "there is considerable geographical overlap between the locations of the chronic-wasting disease epicenter in Saskatchewan and the locations where animal mutilations were reported since 1994. We hypothesize that the animal mutilations reported in northwestern Saskatchewan in the past several years may have been a covert prion sampling operation by perpetrators who knew that the infectious agent was spreading from farmed elk and deer to wild deer and thence to cattle."
Dr. Kelleher says that the report his group issued has received "thousands" of hits from computers originating at the Department of Defense over the past several months.
The military? A private company? Terrorists? Something occult? While reaching no conclusion about who may be involved -- what party or parties -- Dr. Kelleher and his co-authors conclude that "the infectious agent, unlike all known viruses and bacteria, is almost indestructible and the symptoms in people appear very difficult to diagnose pre-mortem. In short this agent [also known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy] is the perfect stealth killer. Thus, we hypothesize that animal mutilations serve as both a sampling operation and a warning."
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