Health, hygiene and biosecurity: Tribal knowledge claims in the UK poultry industry.

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Nerlich, Brigitte ; Brown, Brian J. ; Crawford, Paul (2009)

Since 1997 the world has been facing the threat of a human influenza pandemic that may be caused by an avian virus and the poultry industry around the globe has been grappling with the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza H5N1, or in more informal terms bird flu. The UK poultry industry has lived with and through this threat and its consequences since 2005. This study investigates knowledge claims about health, hygiene and biosecurity as tools to ward off the threat from this virus. It takes a semi-ethnographic and discourse analytic approach to analyse a small corpus of semi-structured interviews carried out in the wake of one of the most publicised outbreaks of H5N1 in Suffolk in 2007. It reveals that claims about what best to do to protect flocks against the risk of disease are divided along lines imposed on the one hand by the structure of the industry and on the other by more ‘tribal’ lines drawn by knowledge and belief systems about purity and dirt, health and hygiene. The authors gratefully acknowledge the generous support of the ESRC for a grant enabling a study of public discourses about MRSA and avian flu: ‘Talking cleanliness in health and agriculture’ (RES000231306).
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