Something Wicked This Way Comes

John Allen Paulos told me the following joke: “Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“A: To cause a global pandemic.”

Robert Dorit reviews The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu by Mike Davis, in American Scientist:

ChickenAs Davis points out, the concentration of economic power and influence in huge poultry conglomerates militates against a rapid and rational response to outbreaks of bird flu. In chilling detail, The Monster at Our Door exposes the political pressures exerted on the government of Thailand by Charoen Pokphand (CP), the country’s dominant poultry concern. These pressures have slowed the reporting of avian influenza, obstructed the monitoring of chicken and duck facilities, and limited efforts to cull infected flocks in order to prevent the spread of disease. They have also redirected the government’s control measures onto the few remaining small farmers who raise chickens, often forcing them out of business and thus further tightening CP’s food monopoly in Thailand. (This story of political corruption and influence is not without its surrealistic touches: In 2004, the Thai ambassador to Moscow offered to barter 250,000 tons of Thai chicken—the shipment would have begun with 60,000 tons of chicken possibly contaminated with H5N1—in exchange for Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft. The offer was declined.)

More here.