by Rosita Sweetman
What is going on?
For four years now politicians around the globe have been telling us we’re all going to die – in our hundreds of millions = of bird flu. Hundreds of hours of air time, and ditto acres of print space have been devoted to experts discussing the pandemic we all face. At the same time, the same politicians, have convinced us that unless they spend millions and millions of taxpayers money on stockpiling ‘Tamiflu’, the supposed anti viral, magic bullet cure for bird flu, we will die in even more astonishing and incredible numbers.
Big fancy maps showing the inexorable advance of the ‘deadly patghogen H5NI’ from it’s breeding grounds in China,(where it is said multinationals such as Tesco have poultry ‘facilities’ housing up to five million birds), across Thailand, Vietnam, until January of this year when it landed in Hungary.
Blimey, we all thought, that is close.
Few of us had any idea however how close it was until the bird flu outbreak on the ‘bootiful’ poultry facilities of the famous/infamous Bearnd Mathews ‘farm’in Suffolk, in the UK, on 2 February., when government vets confirmed the presence of H5NI in 1% of the 160,000 turkey popuolation.
Initially, Bernard Mathews spokesmen, robustly backed up by government politicians , in the first panicked days of the outbreak, (O my God, bird flu has landed right in the heart of the English countrisde, we’re all going to die), expressed Shock, Horror, Inncence. Where On Earth Could This Terrible Pathogen Have Come From? We Have No Idea. Etc. etc.
All week, Bernard Mathews spokesmen, again robustly backed up by none other than the handsome young secretary for the Environment, David Milliband, and dutiful vets and scientists, pointed the finger at wild birds, organic birds, free range birds, even a few stray cockerels abandoned down the road from Bernard Mathews on what’s known locally as Chicken Roundabout.
And so, just as the unfortunate Bernard Mathewss turkeys were being gassed in their thousands (most of them without a trace of H5N1) businessmen and politicians and scientists alike thundered, as we cowered under our desks with gas masks: on|:
All free range birds must be kept inside! The movements of wild birds must be monitored! Beware the virus laden faeces of natural birds! As if wild birds were roaming the skies like suicide bombers, viruses strapped to their undercarriages. And Farmer Jean’s magnificient free range flock down the road was waiting, gimlet eyed at the factory fences, liable to attack (viciously) at any minute.
The truth, as any amatuer ornithologist or poultry keeper could tell you, is, in the wild, living with multiple viruses is not an option. You stay in pristine health, or you die, but the big boys had the bit between their teeth.
The British government, always up – as most Western gvovernments are - for putting on a dazzling (diversionary) show of power, in aid of their corporate friends – well where elese are they supposed to get all those free goodies, holidays in the sun , seats on, very well paid, boards?, geared up, and next thing you know there are pristine white tents, hundreds of chaps in pristine white chemical suits manipulating sexy looking equipment, and before you can go Gobble, gobble? there’s, an 800 mile exclusion zone! An 800 square mile bio-secruity zone!
Genius really. Made it all sound, and look, so thrillingly Hollywood, with Sky News ever on hand and delighted to oblige. Let the killings begin!
It certainly looked and sounded snazzier than the grim reality that giant poultry growing units – ubiquitous in the States, England and more recently China and the Far East – are breeding grounds for new and terrible viruses, like the H5N1. ( Just as ill kempt hospitals, choc o bloc with ill people, pumped full of antibiotics, are breeding grounds for ever more virulent strains of MRSA).
As most of us know – we’ve seen the terrible pictures over and over again – a turkey ‘farm’ such as Bernard Mathews bears very little resemblance to any farm we might know. The turkeys - beautiful, intelligent, obsidian-eyed creatures that once lived a long and vigorous life, wild and free in the ancient forests of America, and could turn speed bursts of 88 kilometres per hour – on these factory farms are
now a barely recognisable ghosts that never, from birth to death, see daylight, but live crammed into vast, computer controlled, and completely sealed barns, standing, or just about standing, in their own piss and shit for their entire 12 – 26 week ‘life’, electric lights always on to force growth, fattening up so fast that their bones cannot develop, until one day they are snatched, strung up by their legs on a moving line while still alive, and no doubt panic stricken and terrrified, electrocuted, often only partially, in a water bath, plucked, (tough shit if you’re still alive), gutted (very, very tough shit if you’re still alive), then slapped onto counters where workers slice dice skin and fillet, and hey presto, next thing they will have been turned into injurious to human health ‘food’ such as turkey twizzlers, turkey mini kievs, turkey nuggets.
To add insult to injury the vast global poultry industry claims all of this is being done for ‘our’, that is the public’s, benefit. So that we can have lots and lots of cheap food. Which is a good laugh if you think about it for more than six seconds. The ruthless suppession of individual producers (over years) and the systematic mechanisation of farming being done for us? No it isn’t! It is being done so that rich businessmen can get bigger and richer. It’s called global capitalism and the same, ruthless, rules apply to all sectors – mechanise, standardise, out-source, de-unionise, de-humanise, obliterate competitors and cut production costs to the bone.
In 2004, the year before famous young British chef Jamie Oliver struck out against the dreaded Turkey Twizzzlers, one of Bernard Mathews most succesful lines, the very same Bernard Mathews ‘farms’ (ie. factories), had sales worth £445.7 million, with Mathews himself said to have amassed a personal fortune of £300 million. Which just goes to show how very very profitable ‘cheap’ food can be. Good Lord, it’s so cheap, the dear man must be virtually giving the stuff away. And the reason Oliver was railing against Twizzlers and the like? Some schoolchildren, fed on such processed ‘cheap’ food products since they could first stuff down solids, were so contstipated, a doctor told viewers on the trail blazing Jamies School Dinners, Channel 4 television series, that faeces were coming out of their mouths.
Mmmm… Yum, yum.
And it was on the same Bernard Mathews ‘farms’ that two workers were secretly filmed playing baseball, with a live turkey, as their ball. Not that you could really blame the workers; wouldn’t we all develop some nasty habits if we worked in charnal houses such as these?
To recap: we have the famous turkey ‘farm’, then we have the virus scare and confirmation that it is ‘the deadly pathogen H5N1’ and we’re all duly terrified, and the big boys are saying they have absolutely no IDEA how this all came about, but they’re going to kill all the turkeys (gas them in sealed vans), bring in an 800 mile bio-security zone, keep all the free range birds inside and watch the skies like, erm, hawks. And o yes, Tamiflu tabs are being handed out to one and all (not the poor turkeys mind you), like Smarties.
However, even the earliest days and in the midst of all the excitement, Sir David King, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser does drop a rather amazing bit of information: the virus could have come directly from Bernard Mathews farms in Hungary.
Sorry what? Mr.Bootiful and Wholesome and all round family farm guy B.Mathews has links with Hungary?
Three days later, after the Observer had broken the story on their website, it it turned out, not only did the Bernard Mathews outfit have links with Hungary (they had four huge facilities there), and where (Hungary) it further turned out there had been not one, but several, outbreaks of H5NI only a couple of weeks previously, but Bernard Mathews in England imported ‘partly processed’ turkey meat (along with poultry feed,waste etc) directly from there, on a daily basis.
You would think at this point the government would fall – for misleading the public; the Bernard Mathews facilities would be closed until a full and horough investigation had been completed showing exactly where the virus had come from, and perhaps even more importantly, how. And heavy, and commesasurate to the crime, and public expense, fines imposed. Not a bit of it! The rest of the week was taken up with the usual political huffing and puffing – everything possible was being done etc. etc., and to most ordinary people’s astonishment, on Sunday night last, a brief announcement said the slaughter house at the Bernard Mathews farm would be re-opened and business would re-commence as per usual.
So, H5NI is here, and we’re all going to die? Well, appaently not. H5NI is here and all the turkeys are going to die. Then they’re going to give the rearing sheds and the slaughtger houses a quick hose down and start all over. And the hugely profitable (and highly secretive) world wide poultry industry, which is apparently mainly responsible for the development of super-viruses such as H5NI, and apparnelty responsible for tracking it around the globe on the wheels of its super trucks, in the partly processed meat, in the wastes, in the feed, is to get off unscathed, uncensored and free.
Meanwhile sales of the Tamiflu drug are going through the roof, despite the fact that most commentators agree that it is largely inneffective, and will be completely inneffective if the doomsday, pandemic scenario does kick in and H5NI finds a mechanism for jumping species and easily killing humans.
Well, viruses are renowned for their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Opportunism is their middle name. And you all, I’m sure know the name of the man behind Tamiflu? Yes, none other than Donald Rumsfeld, disgraced US Master of War, and reputed to have made $65 million so far from sales of his drug; so kindly bought up by his friends in high places around the world, while convincing us we’re all going to die.
Or are we?
Sir David King, in his poshest voice, re-iterated he did not ‘want to speculate’ as to the causes of this fresh catastrophe in the food chain, though you can bet your life he’d be speculating like billy-o if it was his ass in the mobile gas chanbers. Strange that. Strange also that not one of these men – scientific adviser or politician – ever thinks of standing up to the monsters who dreamed up this whole nightmare (you’ll be intgerested to know that factory farms came in to being after the Nazis showed us how to run concentration camps) and saying, Hey! What the dickens?! You can’t treat the animals like this! But no, not a bit of it, they’re far too busy poo-poohing our (Joe and Joesphine Public’s) ‘irrational’ fears, assuring us, No There Is No Danger to Humans. Yes This Turkey/Chicken/Duck Meat is Perfectly Safe.
Actually, the exact opposite is true.
There is danger to us, and, it isn’t safe to eat this antibiotic laden, growth promoted, water bloated rubbish. To put in the words of one of Britian’s best loved authors, Terry Pratchett, You can shove your turkey twizzlers where the sun don’t shine.
Hopefully ‘where the sun don’t shine’ is very, very healthy, as the contents of a turkey twizzler are as follows: turkey (34%), water, pork fat, rusk coating, sugar, rusk, tomatoe powder, wheat starch, dextrose, salt, wheat flour, potassium chloride, hydrogenated vegetable oil, citric acid, spices, onion powder, malted extract, smoke flavourings, garlic powder, colour (E160c, mustard flour, permitted sweetener E951) herb spice extract, herb extract, vegetable oil, turkey skin, salt, wheat flour, dextrose, stabiliser (E450) mustard, yeast extract, antioxidants (E304, E307, E330, E300) herb extracts, spice extracts, colour E162.
And you thought it was all your fault your darling little Sophie and your sweetest little Sam were permanently hyper?
Well maybe it is, in a way.
Until we (all), all around the world, stand up together and absolutely bellow:
WE DO NOT WANT THIS KIND OF TORTURE BEING DONE TO THE ANIMALS ANY MORE!
WE WILL NO LONGER BUY YOUR PRODUCTS. THERE ARE CLEANER ONES LOCALLY.
Until we do, we are all morally, and probably, physically, screwed.