I don't have to give up meat yet?

Or do, I? Confusion over some recent reports...

I spent part of my weekend reading up on on bird flu (which I'm apparently supposed to call H5N1 from now on), and I thought I'd share this.

The Beeb, as usual, answers most of your questions. Including:

Q: Can I continue to eat chicken?

A: Professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University underlined the negligible risk to consumers:

"The virus is carried in the chicken's gut.

A person would have to dry out the chicken meat and would have to sniff the carcass to be at any risk. But even then, it would be very hard to become infected."

So, no chicken jerky then. Also, do not follow through on that sudden urge you may get to sniff chicken carcasses.

But, wait, that's not what PETA says:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) staged a small demonstration on Wednesday outside Agriculture Department headquarters (in Washington DC) with banners telling people, "Bird Flu Kills: Go Vegetarian."

Three protesters wearing only underwear and flowers lay in cardboard coffins while people in chicken and turkey suits offered vegetarian starter-kit brochures to passers-by.

Now, I'm confused. I thought only chicken jerky was off limits. And, aren't people in coffins fully-dressed? in general?


At 11/14/2005 2:11 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

You should have been calling it H5N1 all along, really.

PETA is grandstanding without very much reason, and making a catagory error as well. Yes, Bird Flu (arrgh! Why must they call it that?) kills people, but not because people eat chickens. Well, not directly. It kills because the people who eat the chickens also need to kill and clean the chickens. And in doing so, they're expossed to chicken offal, which includes the digestive system. And to large flocks of the aforementioned chickens, all doing the chicken equivalent of sneezing virii around the room.

On the other hand, Professor Hugh has apprently never cooked a chicken himself. If he had, he would have noticed that a) whole, cleaned chickens are packed with several internal organs that very well could contain the virus, and b) they really aren't that clean, so the chances of cross-contamination from the digestive system to the meat is higher than he implies. But I admit that I'm not totally sure how long the virus could live in a dead chicken, so the risk could be quite low. Then again, if it could survive drying, maybe it's hardier than I've been led to believe.

And I'm not sure why he's so gung-ho about sniffing chickens, but whatever floats his boat, I guess.

At 11/15/2005 1:23 PM, Anonymous serena said...

Gotta love PETA...they know how to take advantage of a national crisis to push their agenda!

At 11/15/2005 11:12 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Yes, they are refreshingly single-minded in their pursuit of all things media.


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