Who said that God does not have a sense of humour? When avian flu arrived in Europe, it was first seen in Turkey. The peril from the East had finally washed up on the shores of the continent of Europe. Luckily for those of us further West, Turkey was not in the European Union. We felt safe that such foreign invaders could be held at the gates. However, it then appeared in Romania. This was more worrying. This was almost in Europe proper.
I was in France when a duck near Lyons succumbed to an attack of la grippe. In the local restaurant, the fish dishes were more popular than usual. Should we order magret de canard or not? In recent weeks, we have seen a turkey farm in the South of England infected with avian flu. This infection was purported to have come from Hungary. The observant resident vet noted something unusual when around 2000 young turkeys died in one day. Consequently, 160,000 turkeys were gassed and transported across the country in sealed lorries to be incinerated.
Fears and apprehension about infection are related to colonial attitudes of wily foreigners getting into our society. Human influenza epidemics, for example, have always come from the East – they arise in China or similar countries and sweep across to Europe and the US to infect us. Since the Mongols were at the gates of Vienna in the 13th century, I wonder how much our current attitudes are based in some folk memory of real or perceived threats to our safety.
We have endless conversations in the press about where the turkey infection came from, how did it spread, why did it spread, is it safe to eat turkey and other poultry? A professor of virology said that he was surprised that avian flu had been found in such a turkey farm. He was expecting it in an organic smallholding where poultry are free to roam outdoors. Such musings reveal the ignorance of where infection comes from and why it appears when it does. In the West, we are obsessed with the concept of disease coming from the outside and how we can protect ourselves from 'catching' it. We manipulate the immune system with vaccinations in an attempt to immunise ourselves against them.
As a child, I noticed a shelf in the local library which was for books returned by children with infectious diseases such as chickenpox. At that age, I was fascinated how any 'bugs' would stay on that shelf and not be able to crawl, jump or fly onto the next 'uninfected' shelf. In any case, what happened to such books? Were they buried in quicklime? Were they incinerated? Or, most worrying of all, did the librarian just put them back on the regular shelves after closing?
Such infections in poultry can be seen as 'the revenge of the Turkey Twizzlers. For those of you not familiar with the nuances of British cuisine, a Turkey Twizzler is a prepared turkey product frequently given to children especially in school meals. It shot to national attention during a campaign by the celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, to improve children's diet. Kevin Kline was only half right when he said in the film, A Fish Called Wanda, that the chip was Britain's contribution to world cuisine.
In Ireland recently, which historically has a similar attitude to cooking and food as Britain, there was a hunger strike by asylum seekers because of the food they were given. In an interview, the owner of the centre where people of many nationalities stay for the five or so years whilst their asylum applications are processed, was surprised that people were dissatisfied with their food. He said that they were regularly given fish fingers, chicken nuggets and chips......
Reading the labels on packets of prepared meat products gives you a glimpse of the process between the animal and the plate. Not much of it is healthy and none of it is fresh. My particular favourite is 'recovered meat products'. What the hell is 'recovered meat'? I only want to eat things which are healthy, not something which has deteriorated to the point where it has to 'recover'.
So, what is the link here with Chinese medicine? Firstly, the bird flu outbreak in Romania occurred near Transylvania. Followers of the Dracula story will know that he originated there. The historical figure who gave rise to the Dracula story was Vlad the impaler, a practitioner of an early form of European acupuncture.
Secondly, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (Neijing) is very clear about the cause of external influences gaining entry into the body. ‘Shao Yu replied: The wind generated by the heaven is fair and square to all the people without discrimination, but those who offend it will be under attack and those who avoid it will be free from attack. Therefore, people become sick, not because of the vicious energy of the wind which comes to attack, but rather because they themselves offend the wind.’ The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Translation by Henry Lu. Volume IV, 46.1.
Later, in a very elegant description, ‘Chi Po replied: Wind, rain, cold, and heat cannot harm the human body unless the latter is already in deficiency. Some people do not become sick in the face of sudden gale and rainstorm, because they are not in deficiency so that the vicious energies cannot do them any harm. When people become sick due to external energies, it is because their bodies are already in deficiency so that they are susceptible to the attack of deficiency energies which come to reside in their bodies as guests.’ The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Translation by Henry Lu. Volume IV, 66.2.
In conventional medicine, rather less elegantly, treating people with external invasions by means of antibiotics is like killing a guest and leaving their body to decompose behind the sofa.
Chinese medicine also differentiates how far the invasion has descended into the person. Is there a predominance of Heat or Cold? What is the condition of the person's own energy? Appropriate treatment principles are then applied to support the person as well as deal with the invading energy. To know this is to understand why antibiotic use and vaccination so often leads to ill-health and worse.
This is not only a wisdom of Chinese medicine. Equally in the West, people have understood the underlying causes of susceptibility to disease influences. The work of Gaston Naessens (see The Persecution and Trial of Gaston Naessens by Christopher Bird - Kramer, 1991) builds upon the views of Antoine Béchamp, a French contemporary of Louis Pasteur (see Pasteur Exposed by Ethel Douglas Hume - Bookreal, 1989). This book, originally published in 1923, clearly delineates the rival theories pursued by Béchamp and Pasteur and their attempts to find the truth by experimental methods. Pasteur was very much the seeker of fame and is the one who has been recognised by history. Béchamp, whose main work was blatantly plagiarised, worked away quietly and diligently to support the theory that it is the ‘soil’ – the immune system – which is the key, not the organism. I am sure that Antoine Béchamp would have known what to order in that French restaurant.