United Poultry Concerns February 26, 2006


The complete article can be found at: http://www.grain.org/nfg/?id=372
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.

Men in white rubber suits and gas masks chasing down chickens in rural villages... Chickens sold and slaughtered in live markets... Wild birds flying across the sky... These are the typical images broadcast by the media in its coverage of the bird flu epidemic. Rare are photos of the booming transnational poultry industry. There are no shots of its factory farms hit by the virus, and no images of its overcrowded trucks transporting live chickens or its feed mills converting "poultry byproducts" into chicken feed.

The selection of images sends a clear message: bird flu is a problem of wild birds and backwards poultry practices, not modern industry. In this way, the most fundamental piece of information needed to understand the recent avian influenza outbreaks gets left out of the picture.
Bird flu is really nothing new. It has co-existed rather peacefully with wild birds, small-scale poultry farming and live markets for centuries. But the wave of highly-pathogenic strains of bird flu that have decimated poultry and killed people across the planet over the past ten years is unprecedented -- as is today's transnational poultry industry.

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

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