Anorak News | Fly by Night

Fly by Night

by | 25th, October 2005

‘ONE way of stopping bird flu getting into the UK is to reopen the Sangatte refugee camp over in France and fill it with foreign birds.

Not that this would be any guarantee that we’ll all be OK – not if the man the Mail calls “MR BIRD FLU” on its front page has anything to do with it.

To give him his full name, Mr Bird Flu is Brett Hammond, a convicted fraudster who runs the Essex quarantine centre where the parrot with the deadly H5N1 virus was found.

The diseased parrot has since uttered his last words, but the Mail wants to emphasise the point that another could be on its way. So there’s Hammond on the front page with a parrot on his left arm, and for reasons of fairness lest we only start blaming parrots for all the world’s ills, a white cockatoo on his left.

Hammond’s the “dodgy dealer,” who, as the Sun says, has “done bird”. His crime for VAT offences earned him 18 months in choky in 1997.

Hammond was, as the paper says, also involved in a string of incidents with lost or sick birds. In 1998, he flogged a £500 Jaffa parrot to Lorraine McLean that died nine days later.

He lost a Golden Eagle called Eddie worth £6,000, and found it a day later. And hundreds of cockatiels died when burglars broke into his centre – the felons cut off the birds’ power supply leaving the creatures to freeze to death.

It is too terrible. As the LibDem’s Norman Baker tells the Mail: “It is very worrying indeed that we are leaving the health of our birds – and potentially the health of our citizens – in the hands of convicted criminals.”

Surely it is. And it’s about to get more worrying. In what the Mail calls a “macabre coincidence”, we read that the “dilapidated sheds” where Hammond quarantines birds is only yards away from the abattoir where in 2001 foot-and-mouth was first identified in Britain.

Coincidence? Or something more shadowy and deliberate at play? We’ve taken the liberty of doodling a beard, a headscarf and some huge NHS specs on Hammomd’s face and the resulting image is shocking. Bird flu really is the new terrorism.

The Mail’s editorial duly questions the Government’s assurances that everything is under control. “The trade in captive birds – perhaps the most dangerous means of spreading infection – still continues with tens of thousands imported every year,” it says.

Who says the bird trade is a dangerous way of spreading infection? Wasn’t the infected parrot properly held and prevented from gaining access to the country at large? And wouldn’t someone buying a bird make sure – now more than ever – that their purchase is healthy?

The Sun isn’t listening. “Bird importers are playing Russian roulette with our health,” it screams. “The lax controls on imported birds is a national outrage.”

It must be stopped. But until the borders are strengthened, the law tightened and exotic birds are given citizenship tests, we fear more of the same…’

Posted: 25th, October 2005 | In: Tabloids Comment | TrackBack | Permalink