Stickin’ it to the chickens

I’ve been thinking we ought to look into doing some volunteering during our time here in China, and I think I’ve found the project. The New York Times reports today that the Chinese government plans to vaccinate– yes, vaccinate— all of its five billion chickens against the bird flu. I reckon they’ll need a few extra hands. And the better half of us already has some experience with chickens from his rural childhood, though those were American chickens and no doubt their etiquette and customs were rather different from the ones that prevail over here.

What a bizarre project. It reminds one of the grandiose attempts to bring nature to heel in the 1950s and 1960s (there is some good reading on this subject, but I won’t name it here for fear of attracting trouble to the Mudblog in its infancy). Those didn’t work, for the most part, and in many ways the Chinese are still reaping their unintended consequences, such as environmental degradation. This one seems practically impossible (how long will it take to get to all the chickens, and how long is a chicken’s life, anyway? Glasgow Zoo says 12 years, max; the vegetarians say 7-20 years)

But even if it is possible, is it a good idea? Isn’t vaccinating all the chickens a recipe for hastening the flu’s resistance to anti-viral drugs?

1 comment

  1. Yesterday’s issue of “Nature” reported that “some 8 billion birds (60% of China’s domestic bird population) have already been vaccinated”…but rest assured that there are still plenty of ’em left to round up and jab! And yes, the same journal reported back in June that overuse of the amantadine family of anti-virals in chickens led to the emerge of a resistant H5N1 strain in 2003…

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