The Chinese government is determined to hold at bay the looming possibility of a new pandemic. The virus is believed to pass from birds to humans, but there is no evidence of its spread between humans. Infections have been detected mostly in the Golden Triangle of the Yangtze. Although the Chinese authorities have tried to reassure consumers that poultry and eggs are safe to eat if cooked properly, the poultry market has collapsed. Even in markets located far from the affected provinces, daily poultry sales have tumbled and suddenly it seems that people no longer want to eat this product. According to official data, China produced more than 18 million tonnes of poultry last year, accounting for over 20 per cent of its meat output. City residents consumed an average of 10.59kg of meat per person in 2011.1
No matter how healthy it might be, poultry has become an instant outcast. Many people may think this is a good thing, as it could lead to changes in the methods of raising poultry through intensive farming; it could, perhaps, put an end to a questionable industry created to satisfy the needs of a growing urbanised population. After all, who would like to spend a lifetime confined to a crowded indoor factory being fed growth hormones, unable to distinguish day from night? Who would choose a lifetime devoted to laying eggs in order to feed the insatiable appetites of urban dwellers? Other people might argue that unless you can leave the factory and see “reality”, as in Plato’s cave, you might not even consider your life to be worthless.
In any case, a rooster like the one in the photo, whose placid life rolls by in a small village, far away from the crowds, and whose bones will never leave the place where he lives, might well wonder what all the fuss is about. Ultimately, is in the so-called growout houses and live poultry markets where the virus seems to be in its element. However, the law applies to everyone and our little Chongqing friend’s days may be numbered. It may well be that, certain of his fate, at the break of dawn he will crow a song like that of the great Brassens:
« Au village, sans prétention,
J’ai mauvaise réputation.
Pas besoin d’être Jérémie,
Pour deviner le sort qui m’est promis:
S’ils trouvent une corde à leur goût,
Ils me la passeront au cou »
“In the village, without pretention,
I have a bad reputation.
No need to be Jeremiah
To guess the fate that awaits me:
If they find a rope to their liking,
They will put it around my neck.”
- SCMP, April 9, 2013: “China bird flu ‘devastates’ poultry business” http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1210652/china-bird-flu-devastates-poultry-business Retrieved on May 8th 2013, 4:17pm [↩]