Image via WikipediaOnce the world of our masters returns from its' holidays, the swine 'flu outbreak will be upgraded to full blown panic mode....Tamiflu going for a fortune on eBay, chemists booking world cruises and French employers taking the chance to sack their workers without the usual expensive consequences.
I am girding my loins....not a pretty sight.... to have to explain for the umpteenth time to medical professionals who have had the dossier on the man in my life for more years than I would care to think about that he cannot, under any circumstances, have a 'flu injection. We go through this every autumn. The proposition, the rejection, the disbelief, the contempt for mere unmedical mortals who happen to know that the proposition is potentially lethal....after all, if it happens, it isn't the doctors' lives which will be wrecked or ended. This all happens with the specialists..not with our GP, a gentle giant of foreign extraction. He actually takes the trouble to listen to his patients rather than doling out prescriptions with one hand while collecting his fee for the visit in the other and is universally adored by the said patients. Not by the other doctors in the area, nor by the local chemists as his first act is usually to wean his patients from the carrier bags of medication prescribed by his colleagues and his second is to suggest exercise instead. A lovely man. We bitch about specialists together.
I remember the avian 'flu scare. The vet had to come out and certify that our chickens, ducks and geese were healthy and confined. Since they were all out scratching about in the garden and in the case of the ducks and geese swimming on the river he concluded that they were all in fine fettle and that they were confined....to the garden. As he pointed out, it was all a load of nonsense as in his view the problem lay with factory farmed birds, but, since the government was paying, he had no objection to touring the roads of rural France to have a drink with his clients and fill out a few forms. Shortly after his visit, we had one from the gendarmerie. Someone had denounced us for having ducks and geese on the river. The gendarmes could see the said poultry flaunting themselves on the water before their very eyes, but the vet's forms were flourished and they went away. This is France. Form, not substance.
Some time before the scare, the chap down the road had had a disaster. Or rather his son had had, being in charge while the Dad was on holiday. As a sideline from raising cattle and stealing my ducks, he raises poultry for the table and just before his holiday, he had taken delivery of six thousand day old chicks. Within a week, all had died. The son was beside himself...he called in his own vet, then contacted the supplier of the chicks who sent his vet and then the feed merchant, who sent his vet....all to no avail. Six thousand dead chicks. His first thought was for the financial loss, so he contacted his insurer. The insurer contacted the feed merchant and the supplier of chicks and, no doubt, their insurers and then came back to the son. The proposition was as follows.
He would be paid out in full by an unholy combination of the various insurers on condition that he was not to make any official report of the incident and he was to make sure that his vet didn't either. He was to clean and fumigate the sheds where the chicks had been housed and keep no more poultry for a period of six months....he would be compensated for his consequential loss as well.
The carcasses were buried.....smoke draws attention.....and the sheds were duly cleaned out by the time his father returned from eyeing the prospects of stealing ducks in some other region of France. Considering that he was to be paid in full and not have to work to raise the chicks, he was not displeased with his son's negotiation with the insurers...a farmer's dream, paid for doing nothing except keep his mouth shut.
He did keep his mouth shut, but his neighbour had observed all the comings and goings and knew all the actors in the drama, as they were his own suppliers. He keeps ducks as everyone in a wide radius is aware as he spreads the shed cleanings on his land on the hottest day possible, preferably on a Sunday morning, so that everyone with guests to lunch can participate in the pleasures of rural life. He talked to the postlady, who talked to me and probably everyone else as well, which is how we all knew that the disaster had taken place and all the details of the settlement apart from the actual sums involved. I don't remember the quote exactly, but in one of his books Maurice Genevoix remarks that in the country, you are always being observed from under the visor of a cap, and he's right, nothing passes unnoticed.
The postlady came back with other tales....in the next village, the couple who raise factory farmed poultry had both come down with some sort of respiratory illness that they could not shake off and they, according to their doctor, were not the only ones. Over the river, the man who raises pheasants for the hunting fraternity became ill as well and stopped keeping birds for a while.
It was the gossip for a while and then it all died down as other topics took public attention....why was it with all the unemployed in the commune that the maire's daughter, already employed in the school canteen, was taken on to do the census returns? Easy answer, she's the maire's daughter.
However, when the avian 'flu scare started, I remembered the duck stealer's disaster and I wondered also just how many more outbreaks take place that are covered up. It is in no one's private and financial interest to declare problems, after all, and public health does not figure in a farm's balance sheet.
This isn't just France....look at the disgraceful conditions of the pig rearing industry in Mexico where the swine 'flu first appeared. I've visited one of the pig factories in Brittany...animals in the dark, so close together that a pig urinates on the face of the pig behind, the air pulled out by the giant ventilators so foul that the land behind the pig housing is scorched and blighted. And this passes industry standards in Europe! Look at the disgraceful conditions of factory farming generally and consider the danger to public health from the over use of antibiotics to enable poultry and animals to withstand those conditions long enough to make profit for their owners.
Private profit before public health, on the small scale and the large, from the duck stealer to the drug companies. And where do doctors stand on all this? With a few exceptions they pull the visor of their caps over their eyes and prescribe Tamiflu.