A few pages further into the Saturday Guardian than the typically irreverent Ben Goldacre (this week describing alternative therapy’s comical circus of misunderstandings over bird flu as “performance art”) there shrieks a headline: “France detects its first case of bird flu.” Well, insofar as one can be said to be shrieking in the scarcely-read international pages in the Guardian. It’s not so much a voice crying in the wilderness as Billy Liar burying his primal scream of “Shadrack!” into an empty funeral urn.
But it’s testament to the strength of the rhetoric to be found elsewhere on the subject that it took me till the mention of a duck in paragraph two to realise that this bird flu that was diagnosed, was present in a bird. Birds… died… of bird flu. Whatever next? Man suffers from cold? Baby dribbles snot? Rat develops tumour? Birds can fly; it can’t be much of a surprise that there might be some spread of a bird disease, within bird populations, on a continent that one could actually cross on foot. It’s a good job that these days there’s an instantaneous and effective cure for rabies, is all I’m saying. Otherwise I for one would be boycotting foreign imports of chihuahua steak, or at any rate forcing every canine in the country to be kept isolated indoors: keep our pounds, I say.