Monday, March 12, 2007

What the Bird Flu Scare Really Tells Us

When it was announced that bird flu had been discovered in a Bernard Matthews turkey farm in Norfolk panic set in: poultry sales of all types plummeted; workers at the farm had to be treated with antibiotics as a precaution; hundreds lost their jobs; and thousands of birds had to be slaughtered. But if we look deeper, a far worse picture is painted.

According to the BBC about 160,000 birds were slaughtered as a result of the outbreak. These birds were kept, we are told, in conditions which have excellent bio-security.

Bio-secure living conditions eh? So what are they then? The answer of course is something so far removed from the natural habitat of the turkey (or any living creature for that matter) that the birds are no longer treated as living creatures which have to be respected, or that have rights, but as commodities. Bio-security is not about the safety or well-being of the birds, but about quality control and profit maximisation. Dear Bernard’s interest is in making sure that as many of his birds survive long enough for them to be turned into twizzlers, and not that these birds have a decent life, free from harm which might be caused by disease or equally by conditions designed to keep birds free of disease.

So, what the Bird Flu scare tells us that we have been blind for too long to the conditions in which our food is produced. I’m not a vegetarian - eating meat is fine by me - but you have to be aware of the treatment that the animals you are eating have had before you put them in your mouth. In practice, what this means is making sure that you only buy and eat meat from sources which you know and trust. Yes, I know this is more expensive and it certainly means you can’t eat from burger restaurants in town or processed meat dishes from the supermarket. The result will be that you will eat meat that tastes of something – how many people know that chicken has a taste all of its own? You will eat less meat too because it does cost a bit more. You will have to cook properly too, but that’s good for you and fun too.

We all benefit when we eat proper meat and not something that is mass-produced in a bio-secure barn. Do it for the animals but happy in the knowledge that there are plenty of benefits for you too!

1 comment:

cally said...

Yes, I agree with what you say. I'm afraid that the spectre of foot and mouth and the senseless slaughter of millions of perfectly healthy animals comes back to mind. When it's really useful to get rid of a lot of our animals/chickens whatever, so that we can benefit from cheaper imported goods, it does make you question......