Does This Map Show Mad Cow Disease Prevalence vs. Brexit Voters?

A map purportedly showing that areas affected by mad cow disease in 1992 ended up voting "leave" in 2016 is satire.

  • Published 27 June 2016


Areas that voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 'Brexit' vote were the same areas affected by Mad Cow Disease in 1992.



On 24 June 2016, a day after Britain voted to leave the European Union, a map appeared that purportedly showed that voters who voted to pass “Brexit,” or “British exit,” all lived in areas affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) during the 1992 outbreak: 

EU Referendum Local Results 2016 vs. Mad Cow Disease Outbreak Areas 1992


However, it would be a mistake to jump to conclusions.

If the graphic displayed above truly did show a map of Brexit voters on the left and a map of the 1990s’ mad cow outbreak on the right, the correlation would be difficult to deny. However, the real reason that these two maps look so similar is that they are actually the same map, with one in color and one in grayscale. The creator of this image took a real map showing Brexit results, then altered the map’s key, date, and color before sharing it on social media to satirize the results of the referendum.

At the outbreak’s height, thousands of new cases of mad cow were being diagnosed every day throughout the United Kingdom, the spread of which was eventually traced back to farmers giving calves feed made from animal bone and muscle tissue. (At least two dozen other countries have also discovered incidences of mad cow.)

In 1996, the European Union banned the export of beef from all of the United Kingdom. The ban was lifted a decade later.
Since 1994
A Word to Our Loyal Readers

Support Snopes and make a difference for readers everywhere.

  • David Mikkelson
  • Doreen Marchionni
  • David Emery
  • Bond Huberman
  • Jordan Liles
  • Alex Kasprak
  • Dan Evon
  • Dan MacGuill
  • Bethania Palma
  • Liz Donaldson
  • Vinny Green
  • Ryan Miller
  • Chris Reilly
  • Chad Ort
  • Elyssa Young

Most Snopes assignments begin when readers ask us, “Is this true?” Those tips launch our fact-checkers on sprints across a vast range of political, scientific, legal, historical, and visual information. We investigate as thoroughly and quickly as possible and relay what we learn. Then another question arrives, and the race starts again.

We do this work every day at no cost to you, but it is far from free to produce, and we cannot afford to slow down. To ensure Snopes endures — and grows to serve more readers — we need a different kind of tip: We need your financial support.

Support Snopes so we continue to pursue the facts — for you and anyone searching for answers.

Team Snopes