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Please eat chicken, say babus, scientists

With bird flu panic-induced vegetarianism sweeping the nation, senior bureaucrats and scientists tried to dispel fears on Tuesday by eating chicken before the international press corps. ?You can say the government is not chickening out,? animal husbandry joint secretary Upma Chawdhry declared. ?I?m a vegetarian, but I?ll eat chicken for the national good.? Her boss, Secretary P.M.A. Hakeem also chomped down a drumstick.

india Updated: Feb 22, 2006 01:12 IST

With bird flu panic-induced vegetarianism sweeping the nation, senior bureaucrats and scientists tried to dispel fears on Tuesday by eating chicken before the international press corps.

“You can say the government is not chickening out,” animal husbandry joint secretary Upma Chawdhry declared. “I’m a vegetarian, but I’ll eat chicken for the national good.”

Her boss, Secretary P.M.A. Hakeem also chomped down a drumstick. “People continue to ask us if eating chicken is safe, and I’m going to answer that question by demonstrating that eating poultry products is safe,” he said. Also dining were officials of the Indian Council of Medical Research, directorate general of health services, and the health ministry.

The government also wrote to the railway board and the civil aviation ministry asking them to put chicken back on their menus. Hakeem reminded them that the World Health Organisation says eating chicken is okay even if it is infected, if cooked at 70 degrees.

In the meantime, the government continues picking up blood samples from random poultry for testing at Bhopal’s high security animal lab. Destruction of poultry in the three km radius of Maharashtra’s Navapur is over, and the government will now destroy all chicken and eggs within the 10 km radius. It is choosing killing over vaccination as there are just 80,000 birds in the area, and it is far less complicated than vaccinating, which requires monitoring. “We prefer culling as it is a more effective way of stamping out the disease,” Hakeem said.

Also, it would take longer for the disease-free certification, which would come three months after the last report of the virus. Meanwhile, the 16,500 chicken deaths in Karnataka is not bird flu, said the government.

First Published: Feb 22, 2006 01:12 IST