This morning, I stumbled across this article on avian flu and the US poultry industry’s response to it:
Asian governments must provide financial incentives and shut down as many backyard poultry farms as possible to halt the spread of bird flu, a leading U.S. poultry industry official said.
“We cannot control migratory birds but we can surely work hard to close down as many backyard farms as possible,” [Margaret Say, Southeast Asian director for the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council] told Reuters. “And we can do that only if backyard farmers are given an alternative source of living — some incentive to close down.”
Very convenient, I think, for the US poultry industry — which, as we all know, has been a paragon of healthy practices and good treatment of workers and animals alike — to be advocating for the elimination of an important part of the economy and way of life in Asia. Pinning it on the small guys is always easier than fessing up to the wreck that’s been created by the big guys. Additionally, these backyard farmers that the industrial poultry industry would like to shut down just happens to be their competition. But that’s just a coincidence, of course.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to Democracy Now, on which Amy Goodman was interviewing Mike Davis, author of a new book on avian flu entitled The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. He had this to say about the poultry industry, backyard farmers, and culpability in the resurgance of avian flu:
…the ecology of influenza, like other diseases, has changed dramatically in the last 10 or 15 years because of economic globalization, because of the breakdown of biological barriers between animal and human populations, because of air travel, because of urbanization, but in this case, above all, because of something called the “livestock revolution.” And that’s been the generalization around the world of the American model of poultry production, the Tyson model. Tyson is the giant poultry producer, one of the most exploitative corporations in the United States with just an appalling record of working conditions. Tyson kills several billion chickens a year. It’s created huge conurbations of chickens, unprecedented concentrations of chickens …
The corporate poultry industries have undertaken an international offensive, claiming that the fault resides entirely with the backyard producers, the tens of millions of small farmers across the world who have free-range chickens in constant contact with ducks and wild birds and children playing amongst them. And although this is part of the ecology of avian flu, the thing that has changed the way that flu emerges, that has amplified, I think, the danger and the speed with which it evolves, are these huge industrialized concentrations.
An almost perversely lighthearted PS given the subject matter above: I love Democracy Now. Though I heard about it constantly, I’d never listened to the show until a few weeks ago, and now it’s on my iPod almost every day on my way home from work. Not only is the news delivered by Goodman and Juan Gonzalez incredibly on-point and insightful, but, I must admit, I think Amy Goodman’s voice and delivery are totally hot. Yes, I’m a huge weirdo.