Hens being used as political pawns

They tell us there is a danger of a pandemic of bird flu wiping out humans. Setting aside the fact that this could be no more serious than the politics of fear in the run up to an election, the farming community ought to look at how to avoid such a disaster. Hens in this country do get colds, maybe flu. We used to call it Infectious Bronchitis and vaccinate against it if there was high risk. As with all populations when such things sweep through a flock not all of them will get it. Having been instructed by the ministry to get rid of the deep litter system all hens were to be in batteries. This fulfilled the cheap food ethic and helped farmers minimise risk. Today, in the Far East, they talk of the close proximity of birds to humans and the high risk of cross-infection, but in this country”s heydays of cheap food requirements the hygiene rules were a lot stricter. Hens did get ill, though, and the cause was identified as contact with wild birds. Access was secured with weldmesh of a grade just too small for sparrows to get through covering windows, doors and air vents. As time went by the politics of food took hold and food safety went by the wayside along with farm worker safety and hygiene requirements. It became the fashion to send hens, which are basically jungle birds living in perpetual instinctive fear of airborne predators, out into the open sunshine. From being highly protected creatures living in conditions they regarded as five-star heaven they were thrust out to where the wild things are. Now the chickens have to be put back into sheltered accommodation. To save the world British hens need to be effectively quarantined from wild birds and wild things. The politics of food must revert to the politics of health and real welfare. They don”t like open spaces anyway. Sue Doughty 7 Malvern Close, Woodley, Berks