March 9, 2007

British turkey farm cleared of bird flu

Filed under: fear, politics — ubikcan @ 5:52 pm

A follow-up to the bird flu scare of February that will probably not receive as much attention as the original scare:

Restrictions are to be lifted at the Bernard Matthews plant in Suffolk which was at the centre of last month’s bird flu outbreak.

Certainly as scare mongers such as DemFromCT would have us believe, a tremendous pandemic of bird flu is just around the corner.

It might be useful to more calmly consider some facts however. Many people might think that you can get bird flu from eating infected meat. Can you? No:

Can I continue to eat chicken?

Yes. Experts say avian flu is not a food-borne virus, so eating chicken is safe.

The only people thought to be at risk are those involved in the slaughter and preparation of meat that may be infected.

So the only people at risk are those who prepare bird meat? Most the few deaths have been from workers in the poultry business? Yet DemFromCT wants me to stock up on food and water, because you know, the schools will close for three months (highly ineffective anyway, the response to a pandemic is to isolate the sick, not to confine the non-sick):

Flu in birds is now present near Moscow and in UK poultry. So, it’s not just that screw-ups from Bernard Matthews might put virus into the environment. it’s that natural hazards like flu pandemics happen.

(I await the update on DemFromCT’s website to say that bird flu is no longer “in” UK poultry, or “in” the environment, because again, you know, it just runs around free.)

What was the real cost of the bird flu outbreak at the Matthews plant:

A further 38 workers have been laid off by a firm forced to slaughter 160,000 turkeys after a bird flu outbreak.

Bernard Matthews, which has factories at Great Witchingham in Norfolk and Holton in Suffolk, said the move was down to a fall in demand.

The number laid off from its workforce of 4,500 now stands at 168…

…The company, the UK’s largest turkey producer, admitted that at one stage following the outbreak, its sales had fallen by 40%.

If you can’t get sick from the meat, why were sales down? Surely not because of a climate of fear…

Dick Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine:

“If there’s a one-percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty”

Human-to-human avian flu is a “dread risk:” something that’s incredibly unlikely, and yet which affects us deeply. The way to combat such dread risks is to put them in perspective and realize that we’re not powerless in the face of such risks. Not only that, but to reject the whole political calculus of risk anyway, which is all too easily transmutable into political manipulation.

Following 9/11, people were so scared of flying that they drove in increased numbers. It’s been estimated that since driving is so much more dangerous than flying, as a consequence over 1,500 people gave their lives on the road.

I’ve written before how we aren’t very good at assessing risk. We see that something has a risk and think it will happen to us. (Conversely, most people think they have a realistic chance of winning the lottery, when it’s actually a voluntary government tax system.)

I think before discussion can go much further on these issues we need to have a realistic understanding of risk and to put them in context.


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