The £600,000 compensation paid to Bernard Matthews for culling thousands of healthy birds after the bird flu outbreak at one of its plants certainly put the cat among the pigeons.
Recalling the perceived serious biosecurity lapses at the plant at the time of the outbreak, the media predictably foamed with indignation. ‘Bird-brained’ ran The Sun headline, demanding ‘why on earth are taxpayers forking out £600,000 to Bernard Matthews for putting the nation at risk of bird flu?’ (19 April).
The Scotsman accused the Government of adding ‘insult to injury’ (20 April), while The Times declared it ‘disgusting that taxpayers’ money is being given to a company that keeps its stock in such appalling conditions’ (20 April).
But Bernard Matthews defended the compensation as ‘a drop in the ocean’ (Norwich Evening News, 20 April) compared with the lost sales and costs incurred.
Emphasising that it had always met or exceeded Defra’s biosecurity requirements, it also called for greater testing of wild birds. Given Defra’s admission that the true source of infection is unlikely to be found, Bernard Matthews must be wondering now whether he can rebuild his brand to its former ‘bootiful’ glory.