Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bird farms, bird flu

Found the following report which supports what I've suspected all along and mentioned in a previous blog. It's factory farming that is to blame for the spread of bird flu.

Worse is to come, it seems. Note the last sentence in this report.


Taken from Straits Times Feb 28, 2006

'Poultry industry to blame' for bird flu
Wild birds, backyard farms not at fault, says NGO report

BANGKOK - A NEW report released yesterday blamed the transnational poultry industry, and not small-scale poultry farming and wild birds, as the root cause of the global bird flu crisis.

The spread of industrial poultry production and trade networks has actually created ideal conditions for the emergence and transmission of lethal viruses such as the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, said Mr Devlin Kuyek of the Montreal-based international non-governmental organisation, Grain.

Once inside densely populated factory farms, viruses can become lethal rapidly and amplify, Mr Kuyek said in the report released in Barcelona yesterday, the Bangkok Post reported.

Air thick with viral load from infected farms was carried for kilometres, while integrated trade networks spread the disease through many carriers: live birds, day-old chicks, meat, feathers, hatching eggs, eggs, chicken manure and animal feed, he said.

'Everyone is focused on migratory birds and backyard chickens as the problem,' said the researcher at Grain, which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on people's control over genetic resources and local knowledge.

'But they are not effective vectors of highly pathogenic bird flu. The virus kills them but is unlikely to be spread by them,' he said.

By contrast, Grain argued that backyard poultry farms watch their birds closely and know when they are sick, but a sick bird or two among thousands in industrial poultry outfits are much more difficult to detect.

Although wild birds can become ill with H5N1 bird flu, BirdLife International said that if they have any role in spreading the virus, it is minor compared to other mechanisms.

BirdLife, a global partnership of conservation organisations in more than 100 countries, said: 'All the evidence suggests that H5N1 is highly lethal to migratory wild bird species and kills them quickly, that infected migrants cannot move long distances and that the virus is most likely to be contracted locally, close to the site of deaths.'

For example, in Malaysia, the mortality rate from H5N1 among village chickens was only 5 per cent, indicating that the virus had a hard time spreading among small-scale chicken flocks.

H5N1 outbreaks in Laos, which was surrounded by infected countries, had only occurred in the country's few factory farms, which were supplied by Thai hatcheries, the report said.

The only cases of bird flu in backyard poultry, which accounted for more than 90 per cent of Laos' production, occurred next to the factory farms.

'The evidence we see over and over again, from the Netherlands in 2003 to Japan in 2004 to Egypt in 2006, is that lethal bird flu breaks out in large- scale industrial chicken farms and then spreads to other places and regions,' Mr Kuyek was quoted by the Bangkok Post as saying.

The Nigerian outbreak earlier this year began at a single factory farm, owned by a Cabinet minister, distant from hotspots for migratory birds but known for importing unregulated hatchable eggs.

Grain asked a burning question why governments and international agencies, such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, were doing nothing to investigate how the factory farms and their by-products, such as animal feed and manure, spread the virus.

Instead, they were using the crisis as an opportunity to further industrialise the poultry sector.

Initiatives are multiplying to ban outdoor poultry, squeeze out small producers and restock farms with genetically modified chickens.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just as I suspected... I have 6 hens in my back garden who are well cared for and well fed. I can see at a glance if any one of them is off colour or upset. The house is clean and smells only of shavings. How many large scale poulty factories can say this? But I am the one who is set to lose. My girls are out in the garden now running around in the cold sunny morning air, what could be more healthy?