Thursday, February 08, 2007

Chicken safety

Avian flu arrives in the UK and no one seems to be clear as to how it is being spread, apart from speculation that wild birds may have something to do with it. An outbreak was discovered at the Bernard Matthews farm and factory I cannot help but reflect on the reasons why we still encourage large scale meat production of this kind.
The cost of cheap meat may not be immediate but you get what you pay for and poor living conditions, and stressed birds are going to reduce the bird's immune system and leave it wide open to virus infections, just the same as humans.
There is a requirement to register flocks of 50 or more birds with Defra, so that they have an idea of where each chicken is ( on satellite probably). I understand this to be a sensible measure, probably involves a lot of bureaucracy and form filling, that enables the government to tell flock owners at risk. The usual procedure is mass extermination of the birds and complete disinfection of the areas they occupied. Strangely enough, owners nearby the site have not been contacted and the question is, why would they say their birds are not at risk. Has it got to do with the fact that they roam free, have excellent hygiene and feed them when they want to...i.e. the birds are less stressed? Some people have panicked and killed all their chickens even before there was an outbreak.
It seems ridiculous that they want to know where each chicken is, but they cannot find criminals or illegal immigrants or lost children. It surely is a matter of time before we all get computer chips in our bodies and they can find us with sat nav. New passports have a chip implanted for that particular reason I am sure. There has to be some computer somewhere that tracks human movement across the globe in the interests of national security. So, soon, all animals, humans and anything that moves will be registered and seen from the sky.

Practically there is little I can do for my birds apart from making sure that they live in an excellently clean henhouse, have clean water every day and have plenty of good food to eat. If the outbreak gets closer we will have to monitor what happens.

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