Monday, November 21, 2011

Fowl Stuff

THIS journalism business, particularly the quality journalism we have been hearing so much about, good heavens but it is hard for a simple reader to figure out! We know it is “quality journalism” because it is in The Phage, and by the definition favoured by Robert Manne and others, that is enough. But for the baffled rest of us, well it can be a real head-scratcher.

Take this morning’s Phage, for example, which reports with breathless credulity that conditions inside the Baiada poultry plant, now at the centre of a rather nasty industrial dispute, are both unsanitary and unsafe. The article is supported by a portfolio of pictures, including the one below, which are published online above a caption that asserts without qualification that they are “bad conditions”. 

The Age neglects to explain where it obtained the images, but it is reasonable to assume they were provided by the strikers – a provenance that might raise a question or two about whether or not they were stage-managed. The snapshot above, for example, just happens to have a couple of plucked fowls photogenically displayed atop a bag of other processed birds. And in the foreground, framed for maximum impact, is a bank of shipping cartons with the Baiada name prominently displayed.

Another snap (below) captures the Dickensian hell of the modern poultry industry with its pair of wheelie bins standing in front of an emergency exit. 
 Now some might see the photo gallery and raise an eyebrow. The dispute has been rancorous in the extreme, with arrests, punches, even allegations of industrial manslaughter. So all of a sudden, rising to the surface of this poisoned well, an album of one side’s alleged sins is offered to the Age, which publishes them with a condemnatory caption.

Well, you might think, the Age should have explained its informants’ possible motivation or, on a very good day, questioned the pictures themselves. Perhaps it might even have published a story noting that the dispute has now become so toxic that the strikers are attempting to ruin their employer’s reputation. Do poultry plants really leave uncovered chickens strewn about the shop floor, it might have asked, noting that food processing plants are visited regularly, often without warning, by health inspectors and the like? At the very least, the Age might have wondered how difficult it might be to drag two rubbish bins in front of a fire door, take their photograph and then wheel them back to somewhere safer?

They are questions an adult, even a reasonably dim adult, might be inclined to ask. But at the Age, no trace of healthy suspicions.

That’s quality journalism, folks. Quite a mystery, ain’t it! 


  1. Like where the ABC hand slapped Tony Abbott for sullying his speech to Obama by bringing in domestic politics. Worth listening to the whole thing for a bit of context.

  2. Surely Professor you are not accusing the People's Decromatic Socialite credit card using Onion officials of using Deceptive Tactics? shame on Youse!

  3. The time it took to take a photo of two wheelie bins would have been about half the time it would have taken to fix the problem.

    I suspect Tony Abbott's work choices is the cause of these class war resentments resurfacing; as is clearly evidenced by the daily carnage on our roads from the indiscriminate and contemptuous placement of wheelie bins. Fortunately the government is going to launch an inquiry headed by a retired Judge.

    Shock Jocks are calling for a wheelie bin correction of alignment levy.

    [None of this matters. Victoria won't get the power plant or dam it needs. The Greens hatred of humanity itself won the day. Your future was hijacked, by well, the people who took that photo]

  4. The pictures of the chicken factory are ridiculous. What are they supposed to show?

    I once worked for a Baiada controlled chicken farm as a dead chicken picker-upperer. Every day you would press your way through the mass of chickens picking up a few corpses here and there and slaughtering the deformed unfortunates. It was important to get all the dead ones on the first day otherwise they would be well on the way to liquifaction by the second day due to the warm conditions in the shed.

    I always found it amusing when you came across two large birds who had obviously been having cock fight and who had both died of heart attacks immediately afterwards. They would always be lying on their backs with their feet sticking up in the air, making it easy to pick them up and throw them in the tumbril.

    Although it stank pretty bad (actually really, really bad) it was a great job and I loved it but the owner refused to pay the minimum wage so I left.

    Having viewed the process up close I don't think these mass production chicken farms are that bad all things considered. For most of their short lives the chickens actually have a lot of room to move around, and it is only when they expand to fill the space available that they end up packed in like sardines. By this stage they are ready to be euthanized anyway.

    Its a lot like the human condition if you ask me. Chickens are wonderful creatures, a bit stupid but otherwise a magnificent animal with their sturdy legs and generally civilized behaviour. When picking them up you should always make sure you have their wings packed in and they will be very docile. Don't pick them up by the legs and hold them upside down. They hate this.

    Cheery bye for now.

  5. Talk about shitting in your own bed. The problems portrayed in the picture series on The Age site were caused by whom? Why it would have been the aggrieved workers I'd assume. I doubt it was management that put the wheelie bins in front of the fire exit or caused the pallet racking to collapse. How dumb are these clowns? And they then go and advertise their mental imparement in The Age! They are trying to get the company back by destroying its reputation. And their jobs. And we'll be paying them dole money when it all turns to shit. Idiots.

  6. If the workers who took the pictures had any duty of care instincts, they would have removed the health and safety issue themselves. In fact, it s their responsibility to do so, ad would have been written into the very procedures and policies they signed up to.