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

Nerlich, Brigitte; Brown, Brian; Crawford, Paul


Brigitte Nerlich

Brian Brown

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Professor of Health Humanities


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.


Nerlich, B., Brown, B., & Crawford, P. (2009). Health, hygiene and biosecurity: tribal knowledge claims in the UK poultry industry. Health, Risk and Society, 11(6),

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 1, 2009
Deposit Date Oct 16, 2012
Publicly Available Date Oct 16, 2012
Journal Health, Risk & Society
Electronic ISSN 1369-8575
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 6
Keywords risk; hygiene; biosecurity; poultry industry
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in the Health, Risk & Society, 2009 copyright Taylor & Francis, available online at:


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