United Poultry Concerns April 4, 2003

United Poultry Concerns Report & Action Alert
Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) and the Mass Killing of Birds

California Attorney Holds Meeting, Files Petition Contesting Protest END Eradication Program

“In an unscientific effort to prevent the spreading of END (exotic Newcastle disease), the task force kills all birds in an area where END has been allegedly located, regardless of the bird’s status as a healthy, disease-free bird.” – Attorney William H. Dailey in a Petition filed on March 24, 2003

“Laws are being broken by the teams every day. From trespassing to abuse of power. Not to mention animal cruelty acts.” – Mike and Sue Swallow, Norco, CA, Email, 1/28/03

In January, California Gov. Gray Davis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared a state of emergency to protect California’s $3 billion poultry and egg industry from exotic Newcastle disease (END), a contagious virus that affects the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and, while said to be harmless to humans, “can cause pink eye in rare circumstances,” according to Pima County, Arizona Sheriff’s Detective Mike Duffey (KOLD-TV, Tucson, AZ, 2/19/03).

On February 13, 2003, UPC President Karen Davis joined a meeting of animal protection groups, concerned citizens, journalists, and government officials in Los Angeles to discuss the handling of the situation. Hosted by attorney William Dailey, and Cherylynn Costner of the Hillary Chicken Memorial Fund, the meeting also included representatives of The Fund For Animals, the Humane Farming Association, The Humane Society of the United States, Last Chance for Animals, the Parrot Society of Los Angeles, Mike and Sue Swallow, and others.

On March 24, 2003, attorney William H. Dailey filed a Petition with the Superior Court of California on behalf of 13 bird owners, the Hillary Chicken Memorial Fund, the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, and amended in April to include United Poultry Concerns, urging the court to order Gov. Gray Davis to rescind his January emergency order calling for the eradication of exotic Newcastle disease through the “expeditious disposal of poultry” and to order Davis and government agencies to establish due-process protections that prevent authorities from arbitrarily and capriciously slaughtering companion or show birds. “We’re asking the court to tell the government to do things differently and to obey the constitution,” Dailey said. “Over 3 million birds were slaughtered to date just in California and most of them weren’t infected.” Dailey’s motion accuses Gov. Davis and the CA task force of “repeated abuses of constitutional rights and cruelty toward citizens and violations of animal anti-cruelty statutes.” (Associated Press 3/31/03)

To read the Petition go to
For updates call Cherylynn Costner, Hillary Chicken Memorial Fund: 877-452-4425.

“Men in white suits come to your door to kill your precious birds.” – Sue Swallow

So far the USDA and CA Dept of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) have killed more than 3 million commercial, backyard, and companion birds at a cost to taxpayers in excess of $40 million, including $12.8 million paid in indemnities to bird owners (Scripps Howard News Service 4/1/03). Chickens, parrots, ducks, geese, pigeons, turkeys, emus, peafowl, and other birds were, and are now being, killed, the majority showing no sign of the disease and without first being tested. If one bird tests positive in a flock consisting of one bird or a million birds, all of the birds are destroyed.

California residents Mike and Sue Swallow describe the treatment of companion birds: “A vet shows up with a bunch of low paid thugs and prison labor. In full view of a family, including the children, they catch the birds they can catch, tape their legs together, put each one in a plastic bag, and gas them with carbon dioxide. The ones they can’t catch they shoot with pellet guns until they are dead. Geese and emus they bludgeon to death with clubs.”

The Cockfighting Connections

“They place the blame for this situation, as well as its being spread, directly in the hands of fighting cock breeders. In fact, it is believed that the jumping [of the virus] from backyard poultry flocks to the commercial egg production facilities was because many of the employees of poultry farms owned infected chickens." – Sandee L. Molenda, reporting on a meeting with CA State Veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer in January 2003.

Though cockfighting has been illegal in California since 1905 – as is raising roosters for fighting, participating in or attending a cockfight and possessing fighting paraphernalia –there are at least 3 million game birds in the state and 50,000 – 60,000 owners (Poultry Times, 2/17/03). A county detective explains, “These guys have two to 400 roosters, on the pretext of raising show birds. They’re tied to stakes, in the open, and go through a training regimen to make them fighters” (Modesto Bee, 2/9/03). Cockfighters bring birds up from Mexico and move them from state to state despite federal quarantines. They work on poultry and egg farms, tracking the disease into chicken houses. Despite the illegality of cockfighting in California and 47 other states, USDA is compensating cockfighters whose birds are destroyed under the END eradication program, as high as $1,850 per bird (The Californian, 3/15/03). This compensation supports cockfighting and encourages cockfighters to “find” END, kill their birds, and introduce new birds in order to get paid. California resident Mike Swallow told UPC (3/13/03), “They hide 5 or 6 dead birds and after depopulation sell those dead birds to other cockfighters to infect their birds and get the big payoff.”

The Poultry and Egg Industry: Culpability and Reward

“END spreads rapidly among birds kept in confinement, such as commercially raised chickens.” USDA Fact Sheet (1/6/03)

“It’s a public record when the federal government pays a farmer to grow cotton or rice; so why isn’t it so when the feds pay a rancher to euthanize [sic] a chicken? The reason, says the task force, is that the market value of any given chicken is propriety information. . . . Chicken ranchers should be thrilled that the government has such a generous program to shield them from financial ruin.” – Scripps Howard News Service (4/1/03)

In addition to END’s being transmitted through infected birds’ droppings and secretions from the nose, mouth, and eyes, a USDA Fact Sheet (1/6/03) explains that the disease “is often spread by vaccination and debeaking crews, manure haulers, rendering truck drivers, feed delivery personnel, poultry buyers, egg service people, and poultry farm owners and employees.” And while the mass killing of birds to eradicate END is being done to protect the poultry and egg industry, there is another side to the slaughter, exemplified by the egg rancher who killed 100,000 of his hens, not because they had END but because they were “spent.” Since he couldn’t truck them to slaughter due to the quarantine in his area, he was reimbursed for every hen piled on his truck “pouring over the side of the truck,” whereupon he told the Los Angeles Daily News (2/15/03), “For a guy who’s been losing money for three years this could be the first sizable check in a long time.”

That’s because the state is paying egg companies $2 to $5 per bird for losses incurred under the END eradication program, an exchange welcomed by an industry that’s been trying to reduce the U.S. flock size for years and normally gets –0 to 10 cents per unwanted hen. U.S. egg companies normally suffocate their “spent” flocks in dumpsters and sell them to renderers, having no other market for their “product.” “They’d be crying all the way to the bank,” if their chickens were stricken, one poultry producer told the Los Angeles Times (1/8/03). It is thus reasonable to suppose that many egg-laying flocks are intentionally being “stricken” and that END has to do not only with cockfighting but collusion between the egg industry and the government to consolidate the industry and eliminate the smaller guys, who are killing their birds, taking the money, and selling their land to real estate developers.

What Can I Do?

  • Urge U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman to endorse, and your Members of Congress to support, the Ensign-Allard-Cantwell (Senate) and Bartlett-Andrews (House of Representatives) legislation that increases interstate commerce in birds intended for cockfighting from a misdemeanor to a felony. Tell Secretary Veneman to stop reimbursing cockfighters as part of the END eradication program. Tell her and your Members of Congress you do not want your taxes used to benefit cockfighters but to support a vigorous federal program to uphold federal and state laws that prohibit cockfighting.

The Honorable Ann Veneman
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington DC 20250
Phone: 202-720-3631
Fax: 202-720-2166

The Honorable _____________
U.S. Senate
Washington DC 20510

The Honorable ______________
House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515

To find your U.S. Senators and House Representative call the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121 or go to
  • Tell Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and your Members of Congress you do not want your taxes used to indemnify the poultry and egg industries for their “losses” – the suffocation, gassing, and “mulching” of millions of helpless birds. Ask why U.S. taxpayers are being forced to prop up these billion-dollar industries (the CA poultry industry is valued at $3.2 billion and the U.S. chicken industry at $17 billion). Request a written response to your letters.

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.

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