Another Midwestern State Caves to Big Ag and Bird Flu Hysteria

I loved teaching at The University of Illinois as a Grad student, and I was often assigned to teach English in a stately building named Lincoln Hall. A giant bronze bust of Honest Abe greeted all students and staff at the entrance, in honor of the man who in 1861 famously said,

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Lincoln, First Annual Message (to Congress)

Alas, not many people from the Land of Lincoln, which has instead become the land of tractors with A/C, stereos, and GPS guidance systems, still share such a view.

It was no surprise to see the following headline from WGN Chicago: “Illinois recommends residents halt use of bird feeders, baths,” complete with a stock photo of a hummingbird. The rules were actually nothing but some recommendations, which most literate people will ignore as just more evidence free corporate sponsored agit-prop. The only notable one is the last one, again from WGN: “Avoid feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks.” Take that, wild things.

This empty rhetoric (I also taught in the Department of Rhetoric) is a diversion away from the real problem, overcrowded factory farms where birds have died by the millions–last count was around 27 million, with 10.3 million coming from just two farms in Iowa–and so we have the classic solution in search of a problem. Even WGN seems to be saying as much with its last sentence:”So far, the [current bird flu] strain has not been detected in any songbird species.” Bird flu is ahead 27 million to 0, and the contest isn’t even over.

Hummingbird Flu is not Coming to any Sugar Water Near You (Probably)

Hummingbird Nest on Two Old Mac minis

The news industry exists for the same reason as the entertainment industry–to sell consumer products. Instead of reporting actual facts about daily Covid deaths, or Russian fascists committing genocide, we get stories about hummingbirds–not that I have anything against Hummers, but things need some perspective.

Today’s bird flu hysteria is about the ever-present danger of hummingbird feeders. Today’s click bait headline on Al.com is “Avian flu and bird feeders: Can you still feed hummingbirds?” It should read “should” instead of “can,”but this is only click bait, and I clicked on it. Among the ads for sandals and Toyotas was some generalizing about hummingbird safety, from Dr. Victoria Hall, who lives in the hummingbird paradise of Minnesota.

Dr. Hall starts out well enough, admitting that there is actually no evidence about any dangers of giving birds sugar water–unlike humans, who contract type two diabetes if they consume too much sugar water, aka soft drinks (that’s my addition). Then out comes the generality.

Because the science is unclear on the role of songbirds in this current H5N1 outbreak, one consideration is to not encourage birds to gather together at places such as bird feeders or bird baths. These are places where things like viruses could easily be exchanged between individuals

Hall

Exactly. That’s why I am not going near any cafeterias as long as viruses exist. On top of viruses, there could not be enough plates, or food, or silverware. Someone could have a gun. Someone else could speak Russian. Some creep might have a sharp fork.

The hummer feeders stay up, and filled. I might even find a new nest this year. But on to more important things–what Coach Saban serves the losers of Alabama’s spring scrimmage–beanie weenies, and no cake for dessert. That monster! How do his teams keep winning?

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