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Bird Flu Outbreak On Suffolk Turkey Farm

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 at 13:28 by Sue Stewart

It had to happen. Warnings have been going out for months that bird flu was going to become more prevalent, but everyone expected it to be in the wild bird population, not on a Bernard Matthews turkey farm.

The degree of finger-pointing that went on after the now infamous flu-carrying dead swan was found is nothing compared to what’s going on now. Though it is relatively even-handed: unable to make their minds up whether to play the incident down or hype it up, the press are doing a bit of both.

In the blue corner we have the “disease confined to the bird population”, “negligible risk to humans”, “safe to eat chicken and turkey that’s properly cooked” contingent. In the red corner we have the “but you can’t say there’s NO risk”, “what do experts know anyway”, “it’s already jumped to cats, we’ll be next” mob. Sometimes one report bounces between the two. No wonder people are confused.

Concern has been expressed that in spite of the massive cull taking place, no-one’s enforcing the exclusion zones and keeping domestic poultry away from wild birds: free range chickens in the area are still ranging freely. Unwanted chickens are still being dumped at, and occasionally rescued from, Chicken Roundabout (that’s what they call it, honestly) near Bungay in Suffolk.

One local woman said, “Now we have chicken flu… There’s a dead chicken over there and I don’t know if it was knocked down.” It might be down to bird flu, I suppose.  Or maybe people are taking matters into their own hands and Chicken Roundabout has already become Squash-A-Chicken Roundabout.

Just to put everyone’s minds even more at ease, no-one has a clue about how the disease got into the farm in the first place. That hasn’t stopped everyone speculating, though.

One theory is that a wild bird with the virus might have got into a ventilation shaft. No-one’s mentioned actually finding a dead bird in a ventilation shaft, but never mind. Another theory is that people’s clothes, boots or machinery might have been contaminated with infected bird faeces (alright, bird shit) from wild birds in the local area, or on a trip abroad or even (my personal favourite, Esoteric Reason No 34) after visiting ‘a parrot show in the North’. What?

You can’t say that everyone’s upset about it, though. Russian President Vladimir Putin has followed the Japanese lead and banned British poultry. Can’t you just see the glee on his face? Imply he sanctioned the killing of Alexander Litvinenko, eh? Make him out to be a bad guy? Well, he can’t be - just look how concerned he is about his nation’s welfare, Britain.

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9 Comments on “Bird Flu Outbreak On Suffolk Turkey Farm”

  1. Roger Thomas Says:

    I produced the report for the PM that Nic Brown was quoting from in the media (when the Gov started to get FMD right), also to the MSPs that respnded to the Scotland Ecological Superpower report I sent a report on Bird Flu went they found the dead swan at Cellardyke, not far from here. I still believe it is intensive production methods that are giving the disease to wild bird populations. What are the chances of ‘the’ wild bird with it finding ‘the’ ventilation shaft. 10 monkeys with typewriters complete works of shakespeare comes to mind.

  2. Sue Stewart Says:

    That was your report? I agree that the wild bird theory is - well, wild.

    Everyone still seems to be playing down the intensive production issue - when someone tried to raise it a few nights ago, they were basically told ‘they don’t do it in Asia and that’s where it all started.’

    Seems ludicrous to me - I can’t see a direct comparison with free range farming here. Or am I missing something?

  3. Roger Thomas Says:

    Which report?

    Intensive poultry production in Asia is very big. Most products originate from there. The theories are around effluent from the instensive plants leaked into waterways and leakes etc infecting wild bird populations.

    Last year there were scences of a village were a number of children died. I think it may have been Vietnam, these shown pictures of the villagers chickens ruuning around free. What didn’t get much exposure was that it was beleived the poultry that caused the infection had ben given to the villagers from truckers moving animals to and from plants because they felt sorry for them and tried to help them out.

    Not fully up to date but I think the WHO wants a big drive, certainly moved it up the agenda, on Bird Flu spread from wild birds. There again the new head of the WHO is I believe Chinese or Vietnamise. both countries with a vested interest in protecting main export industries of, intensively produced poultry.

    Intensive poultry production in Asia is huge!

  4. Sue Stewart Says:

    I meant the report for the PM.

    I think what I was trying to say in the rest of my comment (and failing miserably) is that coverage keeps skirting around the idea that intensive rearing is the very heart of the problem - though I confess I didn’t realise the actual scale of production in Asia. I stand corrected.

    When someone spoke about free range chickens being less likely to get bird flu (I think it was on Newsnight but I’ve had a sleep since then, so I apologise if I’ve garbled the details), the background picture that went with the argument ‘Asia is where it all started’ wasn’t of an intensive unit, it was of a Vietnamese village with chickens wandering freely in and out of the houses - no doubt referencing the children’s story - implying that free birds were the problem.

  5. Roger Thomas Says:

    Sorry I thought you had gone into my website from the blog and got the report. I was working on the business proposal for the Dome at the time FMD broke out, compared to that FMD was a minor environmental blip. The key line is “Due to the masking affect of the lag time of the incubation period” in the section Analysis of Reaction Time at Onset of Epidemic.
    Minister Nic Brown always said the epidemic was under control. After the PM got this report, Nic Brown started using the above scientificaaly correct line above “Due to th…”. ie if a journalists asks a question, you cannot give them a truthful answer for 14 days.
    The whole thing about the PM taking control of the epidemic was a big PR exercose and nothing else. Tony Blair was seen striding around the country trying to bring the epidemic undercontrol. What the media and public didn’t know was it was already preordained. It was going to be undercontrol by May on the predictions of the models. Though in the media it looked like TB taking control had magically solved the problem. It was already solved when he took control.

    In terms of world chicken production Thailand is the 4th 415,000 tonnes and china 5th 400,000 tonnes based on these figures
    The intensive poultry industry in Asia is huge as a % of their GDP. The theory is efflluent leaking from intensive poultry units where H5N1 originated, as MRSA does in hospitals, contaminated water courses and lakes. Giving the disease to wild birds. To protect the world intensive poultry industry wild birds are being blamed. They are the innocent victims of the whole affair.
    The villagers got the disease from chickens that had been given to them from trucks that were transporting poultry from one unit to another. They did indeed fall off the back of a lorry. Their own free range chickens and wild birds were never the source of the disease. It is convienient to blame them though to protect the intensive industry.

  6. Roger Thomas Says:

    Sorry I will get this right sometime. This is the report on FMD you need to make sense of what I have just written

  7. Roger Thomas Says:


  8. Sue Stewart Says:

    Thank you so much for those links. I’ll be taking a good look at those.

  9. Roger Thomas Says:

    If you click on Benedict Brogans blog link above, in the comments you will find a credit

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