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Avian Flu= The quest for control


The neoliberal programme draws its social power from the political and economic power of those whose interests it expresses: stockholders, financial operators, industrialists, conservative or social-democratic politicians who have been converted to the reassuring layoffs of laisser-faire, high-level financial officials eager to impose policies advocating their own extinction because, unlike the managers of firms, they run no risk of having eventually to pay the consequences. Neoliberalism tends on the whole to favour severing the economy from social realities and thereby constructing, in reality, an economic system conforming to its description in pure theory, that is a sort of logical machine that presents itself as a chain of constraints regulating economic agents
The essence of neoliberalism

Neoliberalism is a philosophy in which the existence and operation of a market are valued in themselves, separately from any previous relationship with the production of goods and services, and without any attempt to justify them in terms of their effect on the production of goods and services; and where the operation of a market or market-like structure is seen as an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action, and substituting for all previously existing ethical beliefs. - What is "Neo-Liberalism"? A Brief Definition

a primer -global issues

Is the supressed immune system that birds & some humans experience, a result of another type of poisoning? pollution? process?

is it a real virus? or are people suffering & dying of 'Avian flu' simply showing similar symptoms?

are they getting sick from a supressed immune system allowing them to catch a 'man-made species specific pathogen' & then passing it to humans...causing a pandemic scare?

So what is causing the supression of immune systems?


1. factory farming


Over the past three decades, American agriculture has been transformed so as to be almost unrecognizable. It is no longer dominated by small, carefully-run family farms producing some wheat, maybe corn, dairy and perhaps eggs and poultry fed and raised in a free-running farm area.

Today, thanks to a project launched in the late 1950's by two Harvard Business School professors--Ray Goldberg and John Davis--production of food has become a concentrated, vertically integrated multinational business, which they named agribusiness. The criterion is no longer human food safety or quality. It is corporate profit. Nutrition has become a pure cost-benefit calculation of shareholder value, just as trading in stocks in a car company might be.

The industrialization of chicken-raising and slaughtering in the USA , which is known as 'factory farming' is a process whose inner workings are unknown to most people. Better it remained so some say. Were we to know, we likely would never again eat a Chicken McNugget or a KFC chicken dinner, both of which are supplied, by the way, by Tyson.

Today, five giant multinational agribusiness companies dominate the production and processing of chicken meat in the United States, and, as things seem to be going, especially were the world to be looney enough to adopt genetically modified chickens supposedly resistant to Avian Flu virus, these five companies are about to dominate world chicken supply.

According to a trade source, WATT Poultry USA, as of 2003 five companies held overwhelming domination of the US poultry production, all of them vertically integrated. US regulators and Congressmen seem to have forgotten the tough laws against vertical integration in the meatpacking and poultry industry following widespread scandals and the expose during the 1920's, The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, exposing the health and human abuse inside the Chicago meatpacking industry.

The five companies are Tyson Foods, far the largest in the world; GoldKist Inc; Pilgrim's Pride; ConAgra Poultry; and Perdue Farms. Together, the five account for well over 370 million pounds per week of ready-to-cook chicken, some 56% of all ready-to-eat poultry produced in the USA. That is a level of concentration far in excess of anything in the 1920's.

Alone, Tyson Foods processes 155 million pounds of chicken a week, almost three times its nearest rival, GoldKist. Tyson is big business, with over $26 billion a year in revenue. During the latest Bird Flu scare, for the Quarter ending September 30, Tyson Foods' earnings rose an eye-popping 49%, and, despite a 10% fall in chicken sales, its profit in chickens grew a robust 40%. The key, the company said, was measures it took to 'boost productivity.' 2

Boosting productivity for Tyson and the other chicken giants clearly means one thing: speedup of the production line, further slashing labor costs, and reducing safety measures in their slaughtering and packing plants.

- excerpt from Bird Flu and Chicken Factory Farms: Profit Bonanza for US Agribusiness by F william Engdahl

Coming Home to Roost: Bird Flu, a Virus of Our Own Hatching

Compassion Over Killing - By Michael Greger, M.D.

The deadliest plague in human history was the influenza pandemic of 1918, which killed up to 100 million people around the world. Annual flu strains tend to spare young healthy adults, but every few decades a strain arises that can kill people in the prime of life. In 1918, more than a quarter of all Americans fell ill. What started for millions around the globe as a runny nose and a sore throat ended days later with people often bleeding from their ears and nostrils and into their lungs. Many victims drowned in their own blood. Their corpses - tinged blue from suffocation - were said to have been "stacked like cordwood" outside the morgues as cities ran out of coffins. No war, no plague, no famine has ever killed so many in so short a time as the 1918 pandemic.

Where did this disease come from? Just this year, brilliant medical detective work, which included digging up corpses discovered frozen in the Alaskan permafrost for tissue samples, recently pieced together the genetic makeup of the virus. The disease came from straight from bird flu.

Factory Farming and Bird Flu

Over the last few decades, meat and egg consumption has exploded in the developing world, leading to industrial-scale commercial chicken farming and mass animal transport, creating the "perfect storm" environment for the emergence of new superstrains of influenza. Though the 1918 virus managed to kill more people in 25 weeks than AIDS has killed in 25 years, it killed less than 3% of those infected. The current mutant H5N1 bird flu virus strain is unprecedented in its ferocity, officially killing more than 50% of its human victims.

We now know that bird flu is the original cause of all of these so-called human influenza "type A" viruses. Although the viruses can affect a wide range of animals including pigs, horses, and wild birds, the initial source seems to be domesticated fowl such as chickens and turkeys.

Cramming tens of thousands of chickens bred to be almost genetically identical into filthy sheds the size of a football field to stand and lie beak-to-beak in their own feces is a recipe for increasing the virulence and transmission of H5N1. "You have to say," concluded University of Ottawa virologist Earl Brown, a specialist in the evolution of influenza viruses, "that high intensity chicken rearing is a perfect environment for generating virulent avian flu virus."

In October 2005, the United Nations issued a press release: "Governments, local authorities and international agencies need to take a greatly increased role in combating the role of factory-farming, commerce in live poultry, and wildlife markets which provide ideal conditions for the virus to spread and mutate into a more dangerous form...." The World Health Organization's flu expert in Asia also blames the emergence of killer viruses like H5N1 in part on intensive animal agriculture and what he called the "[o]verconsumption of animal products."

The Making of a Killer Virus

In nature, the influenza virus has existed for millions of years as a harmless intestinal waterborne infection of aquatic birds such as ducks. The duck doesn't get sick, because the virus doesn't need to make the duck sick to spread. In fact, it's in the virus's best interest for the bird not to get sick so it can spread farther. After all, dead ducks don't fly. The virus silently multiplies in the duck's intestinal lining to be excreted into the pond water and then swallowed by another duck who alights for a drink, and the cycle continues.

If an infected duck is dragged to a live poultry market, though, for example, and crammed into cages stacked high enough to splatter virus-laden droppings over many different species of land-based birds, the virus then has a problem. The virus must mutate or die. Fortunately for the virus, mutating is what influenza viruses do best. In aquatic birds, the virus is in total evolutionary stasis. But, when thrown into a new environment, it quickly starts mutating to adapt to the new host. In the open air, it must resist dehydration, for example, and must spread to other organs to find a new way to travel.

So it finds the lungs.

To hitch rides in respiratory droplets, the virus has to start attacking cells to trigger a hacking cough in its new host. It doesn't want to start killing cells, lest it tip off the immune system to its presence. So, in desperation, it's forced to find new ways to spread. The more virulent the virus becomes, the more violent the cough and the faster it can overwhelm the immune system. It can't become too deadly, though. If the virus kills the host too quickly, there may not be enough of a chance to infect another.

Enter intensive poultry production.

When the next beak is only inches away, there's no limit to how nasty the virus can get. Scientists have even done this in the lab. They start out with some harmless swan virus which wouldn't hurt a fly. But pass the virus through enough chickens and you end up with a virus so deadly it kills every chicken it comes in contact with. Unfortunately for us, through some quirk of nature, the respiratory tract of a chicken seems to bear striking resemblance (on a cell receptor level) to our own. So as the virus gets better at infecting and killing chickens overcrowded and intensively confined in filthy warehouses, the virus is getting better at infecting and killing us.

The world is now facing just such a virus that has gone full circle. It has escaped from the chicken farms and seems to have reinfected its original hosts - migratory aquatic and shore birds - who can fly this factory-farmed virus to every continent in the world. The more birds the virus infects, the more people who are exposed, the greater likelihood that the virus will acquire the means to spread easily person to person - via a sneeze or a handshake - and the next pandemic is triggered; a pandemic that has been estimated at killing between two million and a thousand million people around the globe.

Not "If," But "When"

What are the odds of it actually happening, though? What are the odds that a killer flu virus will spread around the world like a tidal wave killing millions?

The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services has answered that question: "The burning question is, will there be a human influenza pandemic," he recently said to reporters. "On behalf of the W.H.O., I can tell you that there will be." The Director General of the World Health Organization agreed: "[T]here is no disagreement that this is just a matter of time."

"The world is now," he said, "in the gravest possible danger of a pandemic."

Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, predicts that up to one billion people could die. "What we are talking about is not just another health issue," Dr. Tara O'Toole, director of University of Pittsburgh's Center for Biosecurity, told a Congressional briefing, "it is a nation-busting issue." Indeed, our Senate Majority leader recently called the bird flu virus an "immense potential threat to American civilization."

Dr. Osterholm is the director of the U.S. Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and an associate director within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "An influenza pandemic of even moderate impact," he wrote, "will result in the biggest single human disaster ever - far greater than AIDS, 9/11, all wars in the 20th century and the recent tsunami combined. It has the potential to redirect world history as the Black Death redirected European history in the 14th century."

For humanity's sake, we hope the direction world history will take is away from raising birds by the billions under intensive confinement.

Humanity's lust for cheap meat not only leads directly to the suffering and deaths of billions of animals every year, but also threatens the health of our planet, and may threaten our health in more ways than we know.

Michael Greger, M.D. is The HSUS's Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture. - hsus.org/

Industry caused the flu; why blame wild birds?

ASHOK B SHARMA - Financial Express - Monday, March 06, 2006

Not just in India, industrial poultry is the cause of the spread of the bird flu outbreak worldwide.

Several studies show that transnational poultry industry is the root cause of the problem. The spread of industrial poultry production and trade networks have created ideal conditions for the emergence and transmission of lethal viruses like the H5N1 strains of bird flu.

Inside factory farms viruses becomes lethal and multiply. Air thick with viral load from infected factory farms is carried for kilometres, while integrated trade networks spread the disease through many carriers like live birds and chicken manure.

Comparatively, the backyard poultry are not fuelling the current wave of bird flu outbreaks stalking large parts of the world. The epicentre of the outbreaks is the factory farms of China and South East Asia. While wild migratory birds can carry the virus, at least for short distances, the viruses are spread by the unhygienic factor farms, global studies said.

This situation is very true in case of the recent outbreak of bird flu in India. The epicentre of the outbreak was in 18 factory farms in and around Navapur in Maharashtra, where there are no sanctuary for migratory birds in the vicinity.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in November 2005 said, "To date, extensive testing of clinically normal migratory birds in the infected countries has not produced any positive results for H5N1 so far." Even with the current cases of H5N1 in wild birds in Europe, experts agree these birds probably contacted the virus in the Black Sea region, where H5N1 is well established in poultry, and died while heading westward to escape the unusually cold conditions.

The attributed reasons for the spread of H5N1 virus by migratory birds among geese in Qinghai Lake in north China was negated by the BirdLife International which pointed out that the lake has many surrounding poultry farms. It has also integrated fish farms where chicken faeces are commonly used as feed and manure. Besides, rail routes connect the region to the areas of bird flu outbreaks like Lanzhou.

Wild migratory birds and backyard poultry are the victims and not carrier of the disease. The geographical spread of the disease does not match with migratory routes and seasons, the BirdLife International report said.

A study done by a global organisation, Grain shows that migratory birds and backyard poultry are not effective vectors of bird flu. For example, in Malaysia, the mortality rate from H5N1 among village chicken is only 5%, indicating that the virus has a hard time spreading among small scale chicken flocks. H5N1 outbreaks in Laos, which is surrounded by infected countries, have only occurred in the nation’s few factory farms, which was supplied by Thai hatcheries.

The only case of bird flu in backyard poultry, which account for over 90% of Laos production, occurred next to infected factory farms.

The lethal bird flu outbreaks took place in large factory farms in Netherlands in 2003, Japan in 2004 and Egypt in 2006. The Nigerian outbreak earlier this year occurred in a single factory farm distant from hot spots of migratory birds, but known for importing unregulated hatchable eggs.

In September 2004, Cambodian authorities noted that the source of bird flu outbreak was chicks supplied by the Thai company, Charoen Pokphand. This company dominates the feed industry and is the biggest supplier of chicks to China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Turkey, which have witnessed bird flu outbreaks. Ukraine, where bird flu occurred, imported 12 million live birds in 2004.

Russian authorities pointed out that feed as one of the main suspected sources of an H5N1 outbreak at a large factory farm in Kurgan province.

A newsletter of e-Pharmail said the outbreak of avian flu in Maharashtra may be due to inoculating improperly cultured vaccine (inactivated viruses) in poultry, allegedly distributed by Venkateshwara Hatcheries. - financial Express

FAO: poultry producers to blame for bird flu outbreak

20/07/2004 - The FAO has cited poultry producers as the primary cause for the spread of the disease, undermining industry's assertions that it is mainly wild birds that spread the disease.

Recent outbreaks of avian influenza in China, Thailand and Viet Nam have led to producers blaming wild birds for the transmission of the disease.

"Killing wild birds will not help to prevent or control avian influenza outbreaks," said Juan Lubroth of the FAO Animal Health Service. "Wild birds are an important element of the ecosystem and should not be destroyed."

Though it is recognised that certain species of water fowl can be a reservoir of avian influenza viruses, "to date, there is no scientific evidence that wildlife is the major factor in the resurgence of the disease in the region," he added.

The major factors contributing to the spread of the avian influenza virus are poor hygienic practices related to the production, processing and marketing of poultry, contaminated products, gaps in biosecurity and individuals not following recommended control measures, FAO said. This statement turns the tables back on the industry, after increasing concerns that wildlife were the main cause of the disease being spread between poultry flocks.

"Hunting wild birds, some of which are listed as endangered, or cutting down trees to destroy roosting sites, is likely to disperse wild birds into new areas, stress them further and could make them susceptible to avian influenza or other diseases," said William Karesh of the Wildlife Conservation Society, based in New York.

The FAO sayd that improved poultry coops and biosecurity measures to keep farm poultry, including ducks, from coming into contact with free-flying fowl can diminish the risk of disease spread. In recent months the organisation has been working alongside respective governments and representatives of the Asia Pacific poultry processing sector in an effort to drive home this message and prevent further outbreaks of the disease.

If surveillance is improved and immediate reporting is strictly applied, starting from the villages, more pockets of infection and disease are bound to be detected at their early stage. This is the best way of dealing with avian influenza, FAO said.

The FAO has been pushing hard for greater transparency within the industry by trying to encourage poultry producers to report outbreaks of sickness in their farms as soon as they occur. The organisation has been stressing the fact that, by not declaring outbreaks of the disease, the success of control measures will be diminished, leading to further delay restocking investments for poultry farmers.

As a result, the organisation says that emergency response plans should include the immediate destruction of affected poultry flocks using proper protective equipment and clothing that follow its specific guidelines on the subject backed up by thorough cleaning and disinfection of the premises.

It also says that destroyed or dead birds should never be fed to other animals nor should their carcasses be sold. Markets and marketing patterns should be carefully monitored and samples collected for analysis.

At the beginning of this year industry experts were estimating that the bird flu outbreak would cost the Asia Pacific region somewhere in the region of $500 million, mainly due to the mass culling of nearly 100 million birds. However as the industry continues to be dogged by further outbreaks, costs appear to rising all the time. Last week's fresh outbreaks of the disease were reported by poultry producers have sparked renewed fears that after restocking, poultry producers could be facing a fresh wave of the disease. - oodanddrinkeurope.com

Letter to Dr. Jacques Diouf, FAO, about GRAIN's recent report on bird flu

Dr. Jacques Diouf,
 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
 Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
 00100 Rome, Italy
 Email: FAO-HQ@fao.org
 - Dr. Samuel Jutzi, FAO
 - Dr. Joseph Domenech, FAO
 - Dr. Juan Lubroth, FAO


Barcelona, 27 February 2006

Dear Dr. Diouf,

Attached you will find a new report from GRAIN on bird flu, which we released today. After much research and consideration, we've come to the conclusion that the global poultry industry is at the centre of the emergence and spread of bird flu. Backyard poultry and migratory birds play a much less significant role. We, therefore, firmly believe that control measures should focus on the industry and that not nearly enough is being done by governments and agencies, such as the FAO, to investigate and address the industry's role in the emergence and spread of the virus.

The FAO was once a staunch advocate for small-scale poultry production and backyard poultry farming. As you are well aware, small- scale poultry production is critical to people's food security and livelihoods in developing countries and to the world's poultry biodiversity. We are, therefore, deeply alarmed to see the FAO identifying backyard poultry production as a problem for the control of the disease and, in statements to the media and official reports, supporting a long-term restructuring of the poultry sector towards greater consolidation and industrialisation as a way forward. The FAO's positioning here appears to be overly influenced by the unsubstantiated notions that migratory birds are the principle vectors for the disease and that factory farms are somehow "biosecure".

We strongly disagree with these ideas, and our report shows clearly that industrial poultry operations are the source of the problems, not the solution. We also note that the notion of biosecurity in uniform industrial poultry operations contradicts the FAO's own arguments on the problems with factory farming and the importance of local poultry races and genetic diversity, which were expressed on many occasions prior to the recent string of bird flu outbreaks.

We are, however, encouraged by recent statements from senior officers of the FAO that have emphasized the role of the poultry industry and poultry trade in spreading bird flu. We hope that these words will be matched by actions to investigate the role of the poultry industry as the most likely source and vector for bird flu and to protect and promote backyard poultry production. Small-scale poultry production is far more important to the poor and to rural people than large-scale commercial production. It should not have to adjust or, worse, disappear because of the problems caused by the latter.

We welcome any comments or questions that you may have regarding our report. Please feel free to contact me at any time.


Henk Hobbelink

Coordinator GRAIN

Backyard or free-range poultry are not fuelling the current wave of bird flu outbreaks stalking large parts of the world. The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices. Its epicentre is the factory farms of China and Southeast Asia and -- while wild birds can carry the disease, at least for short distances -- its main vector is the highly self-regulated transnational poultry industry, which sends the products and waste of its farms around the world through a multitude of channels.

Yet small poultry farmers and the poultry biodiversity and local food security that they sustain are suffering badly from the fall-out. To make matters worse, governments and international agencies, following mistaken assumptions about how the disease spreads and amplifies, are pursuing measures to force poultry indoors and further industrialise the poultry sector. In practice, this means the end of the small-scale poultry farming that provides food and livelihoods to hundreds of millions of families across the world.

This paper presents a fresh perspective on the bird flu story that challenges current assumptions and puts the focus back where it should be: on the transnational poultry industry. - PDF: Fowl play: The poultry industry's central role in the bird flu crisis

WHO blame disease on thousand of years of local farming

Indonesia markets risk spreading bird flu - WHO

By Telly Nathalia JAKARTA, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Ignorance, filthy conditions and lack of water risk making traditional Indonesian markets breeding grounds for bird flu in people and poultry, the World Health Organisation said on Friday. The warning comes a day after the death of a 22-year-old Indonesian chicken seller, which local tests showed had been infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus.

If confirmed, it would bring to 15 the number of people known to have died from bird flu in Indonesia. Five other people have survived infection from a virus that scientists fear could trigger a global pandemic in humans. Traditional wet markets are common throughout populous Indonesia and Alexander von Hildebrand, the WHO's regional adviser for environmental health, said vendors often conducted business on dirty ground, placing everyone at risk of infection.

Many vendors are clueless about the H5N1 virus surviving in chicken droppings for days, he said. "The exposure to poultry by market stall owners, slaughterers, poultry workers and the customer in the wet marketplace demonstrated that awareness of avian influenza, transmission routes and methods of preventing transmission is limited," he said.

Keeping ducks and chickens adjacent also presented problems. "Some vendors are keeping chickens very close to ducks which can be a problem because ducks do not show the disease but can carry it and transmit it," he said. If an infected bird was present, then many people risked being exposed to the blood and secretions, he said. "Re-zoning is necessary to limit the potential public exposure."


Millions of Indonesians shop at traditional markets where fruit, vegetables and meat are often sold on the ground in the midst of slush and dirt. Sanitation in many traditional markets is poor, with dirty or drainage water used to wash produce and stalls.

The WHO has already called for preventive measures, including limited contact between humans and poultry in markets, as well as better access to water and improved waste management. Increasing the risks is that H5N1 is endemic in poultry in parts of Indonesia and in addition to unsanitary markets, many chickens and ducks live closely among people on small farms or even in cities and towns. This raises the chances of more humans becoming infected.

The government says the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 has been detected in birds in two-thirds of the provinces. A further complication is that Indonesia, with 220 million people, comprises about 17,000 islands, making surveillance and control measures more difficult than many other countries.

H5N1 is not known to pass easily between humans at the moment, but experts fear it could develop that ability and set off a global pandemic that might kill millions of people. In total, the virus has killed at least 83 people in six countries since late 2003. Millions of poultry have either died or been culled to try to stop the virus spreading. But Indonesia has not carried out the mass culling of some countries, in part because it cannot afford to compensate farmers for destroyed birds. - alertnet.org

Free range chickens and ducks dangerous to humanity

By Dennis T. Avery and Alex A. Avery - web posted April 10, 2006

The evidence is now clear: Free-range chickens and ducks are a major, direct threat to humans worldwide.

Fortunately, we can prevent a massive, global replay of the Spanish flu epidemic that killed perhaps 25 million people in 1918–19 simply by putting the world's poultry into confinement houses.

Despite the protests of the "natural and organic" movement, letting our chickens outdoors encourages the bird flu virus to evolve. That could trigger millions of human deaths if the new H5N1 bird flu virus morphs again into an airborne form that can be transmitted directly between people.

Half of the recent Asian victims of H5N1 have died.

Free-range chicken enthusiasts claim -- loudly and without evidence -- that "factory chicken farms" produced the new bird flu virus. In Thailand, however, officials found that none of its modern, indoor chicken flocks had bird flu. In dramatic contrast, 56 percent of the backyard chickens and 47 percent of the backyard and free-range ducks had the disease.

Historically, modern flu epidemics have come from Asia, apparently for two reasons:

First, Asia still has millions of chickens and ducks raised outdoors, in backyards and village streets where they interact with wild birds and people. That lets the virus pass back and forth among birds, humans -- and even among pigs and cats.

Second, Asia has a huge population of free-range ducks that graze in its rice paddies. Thai officials have recently discovered that ducks can transmit the virus without showing symptoms themselves.

Thai officials initially culled all sick birds, and banned outdoor duck grazing. That produced a one-year lull in the epidemic. Unfortunately, several thousand ducks illegally grazing in rice fields quickly produced a surge of dying chickens across a whole region. Even without any known contact between the ducks and chicken flocks. One person died who worked directly with the chickens.

The flu was first discovered in Chinese geese. Wild birds, especially waterfowl, have now spread the bird flu virus from China, Thailand, and Vietnam to Russia, Turkey, India, and Europe.

It's likely to spread worldwide.

The solution to the bird flu danger? We must put our poultry flocks indoors, where the birds are more comfortable, commit less cannibalism, and have less interaction with people and wild birds.

This obvious precaution has drawn screeches of protest from free range poultry advocates. In Germany, officials rescinded a ban on letting chickens outdoors after such protests -- if the birds were covered by a net.

What a strange ruling. Nets characteristically have holes. What if droppings from wild birds fall through the net? In Thailand, a quarter of the chicken flocks in net-walled open houses were infected.

What possible benefits can outdoor poultry offer that would override the risk of another 25 million human deaths from Spanish flu? There a absolutely no nutritional differences.

Free-range birds have also been found to carry more illness-causing bacteria, such as campylobacter and salmonella. Spread to our kitchen counters, these bacteria are themselves potentially deadly to our kids.

Oddly, many of the advocates who demand that their chicken be raised outdoors spend the vast majority of their own hours inside air-conditioned homes, offices, schools, and cars.

It's time to step around the free-range chicken cult and eliminate the pandemic threat of bird flu. It's time to put the world's poultry flocks indoors.

Dennis T. Avery is a senior fellow for Hudson Institute in Washington, DC and the Director of the Center for Global Food Issues. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. Alex Avery is the Director of Research, Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute. Readers may write them at Post Office Box 202, Churchville, VA 24421.

. - enterstageright.com

Bird flu hits small farms, paves way to new disease

Reuters LONDON - Bird flu could spell the end for small poultry farmers and open the door to more diseases at intensive farms, campaigners said on Thursday.

Conservation, farming and agriculture campaigners said governments were responding poorly to the outbreak of the deadly H5N1 virus that has killed over 100 people so far because they had yet to accept that the outbreak started at intensive farms.

It was then spread by the trade of poultry, poultry products and poultry manure more so than by wild birds and chickens in backyard farms, which have become the focus for many governments' campaigns to fight the virus' advance.

"I don't think you would have seen this spread if it wasn't for the industrial type of farming that has been developed over decades and exported itself and its products," said Devlin Kuyek, a researcher at GRAIN, an international group campaigning for sustainable management and agricultural biodiversity. "To make matters worse, governments ... are pursuing measures to force poultry indoors and further industrialize the poultry sector. In practice this means the end of the small-scale poultry farming that provides food and livelihoods to hundreds of millions of families across the world."

Campaigners said the current outbreak of bird flu was sparked at factory farms in China and Southeast Asia and then sent round the world mostly in products and waste. Bird flu has now been detected in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, prompting the killing of millions of birds.

"Globally, the most important route of spread remains unrestricted poultry movements. Recent outbreaks in India, Nigeria and Egypt originated within the poultry industry," Birdlife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations, said in a report. "Here, as in most other H5N1 outbreaks, there is strong circumstantial evidence that movements of poultry and poultry products are responsible."


Some countries have banned imports of poultry and products, but campaigners say trade in hatching eggs and manure among other potentially contaminated goods was continuing.

"Some producers are dumping chicken in China for 30 cents/lb," Kuyek said.

The Commercial Farmers Group said that long supply chains left countries vulnerable to all animal diseases "We must reinforce the national protection against the import of potentially dangerous products," it said in a report.

And rather than bigger farms suffering, the smaller farms are feeling the brunt of the fight against the virus.

In Egypt, the government has initiated mass culls to end its outbreak and says it hopes to end small-scale chicken breeding on the roofs of homes in the cities and rural areas.

Campaigners said such a response could open the doors to further disease outbreaks, arguing that poultry on smaller farms are more resistant to disease than their battery friends.

"The strategy to contain H5N1 by destroying the genetically diverse backyard flocks and developing even more intensive poultry operations will, perversely, increase the possibility -- likelihood some feel -- of a human-transmissible version of lethal bird flu," Kuyek said. "Governments should be ... working out what practical steps we can introduce to help small-scale farms." - abc news

In China, markets a worry as bird flu spreads

By John Ruwitch - GUANGZHOU, China, April 12 (Reuters) - The cacophony of squawking, clucking, honking and quacking that two football fields' worth of live poultry makes is the first thing you notice approaching the Baixing Free-Range Bird Wholesale Market.

Then the smell of feathers, feed, dirt and faeces hits.

Tens of thousands of birds from all over southern China are trucked each day to the market in a dust-covered suburb of Guangzhou where they are stocked temporarily in small pens and sold -- live or butchered -- to retailers or restaurants.

It is a massive one-stop shop for all kinds of poultry, including chickens, ducks, geese and pigeons. It is also possibly the ideal place for avian influenza to spread.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has spread with surprising speed. Since January, more than 30 countries have reported outbreaks.

Sitting in the middle of the market, duck vendor Li Jingwen seems oblivious to the noise and stench, and brushes off suggestions that bird flu might be something to fear.

As his colleagues toss ducks into a basket to be weighed and sold, Li loads a wad of tobacco into a bamboo water pipe and explains.

"So few people have been infected by bird flu," he says, squinting to avoid dust and feathers stirred up by a janitor. "The common cold infects and kills more people around the world."

A woman who runs the tiny convenience store next to the feed depot by the market's exit feels the same way. "The chickens aren't afraid, so why should we be?"

The virus mostly infects birds, and scientists have said that test results show about one percent of live poultry in the area have the H5N1 virus. In other words, they are infected and can shed the virus in their faeces, yet they appear healthy.

But since 2003, H5N1 has infected more than 190 people and killed over half. Twelve have so far died in China, including a man in Guangzhou.

With such a high death rate, health experts have been warning the virus could pose the greatest threat in years if it mutates and acquires the ability to spread easily between humans. Millions of people could die in a global pandemic that would also cripple economies for months or even longer.


Markets like Baixing, and smaller "wet markets" that are ubiquitous in Chinese villages, towns and cities, are worrisome.

Scientists rate very close contact between humans and infected birds as the greatest risk.

"However, the other setting is the marketplace, where you have a huge volume of animals coming through and changing all the time," said Julie Hall, in charge of the WHO's efforts against bird flu in China.

"The mix of different species and the way in which live markets operate clearly is something which we need to look at."

The Chinese government is taking measures to better regulate its markets. In some places, like Shanghai, the sale of live poultry has been banned in city wet markets. China has also been vaccinating farmed poultry in the past few years.

In Guangzhou, the capital of the populous and economically vibrant southern province of Guangdong, health officials have warned that the warming weather does not mean bird flu is gone. The virus tends to thrive in cooler months.

Hong Kong, too, has stepped up its monitoring of incoming birds, regularly disinfects markets and plans to set up a central slaughterhouse in the coming years.

But some say the measures taken on the mainland are insufficient.

Guan Yi, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong, says Guangdong's testing is slow and the sample sizes are too small to be meaningful in the hunt for infected birds.

"The Guangdong market is a major consumer market, most of the poultry is imported from other provinces. Just ask them: How do you detect the millions and millions of poultry imported every day, imported from the other neighbouring provinces?" he said.

The fact that birds are vaccinated also complicates the testing picture, he added. "What's the significance of checking the antibodies? Was the antibody caused by vaccine or infection? How do you interpret the significance?" he asked.

For those who spend their days in the noisy Baixing market, it's all a bit over-hyped. All vehicles coming in have to drive through a shallow pool of water and disinfectant, but that's about the only obvious precaution.

"It's safe here," said a cleaning lady, also surnamed Li, as she scooped up a dead chicken and tossed it into a special receptacle behind the guard post for disposal.

Asked how the bird died, she said she didn't know, and added: "A few die every day". (Additional reporting by Lindsay Beck in Beijing) - alertnet.org





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