6 May 2022

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) ‑ Fiction versus Fact

Thinking Like a Chicken
News & Views!

Dead chickens piled up in the corner of a shed
Chickens gassed to death in government-sponsored avian influenza killings.

To date more than 33 million chickens, turkeys, ducks and other domesticated birds have been destroyed by the U.S. poultry industry and the Department of Agriculture claiming that these massacres are the only way to control the latest round of avian influenza on poultry farms. Millions more birds are being exterminated in Canada and across the globe. Why are factory-farmed birds so susceptible to avian influenza, and what do wild birds have to do with the disease for which they are being blamed? Join me for a look at the causes behind the carnage that the poultry industry and its government allies do not want people to see, but that everyone needs to.

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Thinking Like a Chicken


Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) – Fiction versus Fact

Hello, and thank you very much for tuning in today to Thinking Like a Chicken – News & Views! I’m your host, Karen Davis, founder and president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes compassion and respect for chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other domesticated birds.

Today I want to talk to you about the current avian influenza epidemic that is once again making birds sick across the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere in the world.

This is the fourth large-scale episode of highly pathogenic avian influenza, commonly called bird flu, that I have seen, starting in 2003, recurring in 2005, breaking out again in 2015, and now, once again in 2022. In each of these outbreaks, millions of birds, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other domesticated fowl, backyard birds, and pet birds, have been and are being systematically destroyed by governments across the world to protect the global poultry industry.

Wild migratory waterfowl are blamed for these highly pathogenic bird flu outbreaks. They too are being rounded up and killed by government agencies and associates. However, these wild birds are not the primary cause of the disease in domesticated poultry flocks. All of us—humans and other animals alike—carry bacteria and viruses in our bodies that live inside of us with no trouble. They don't make us sick, and they don't make others sick. This is true as well of the wild ducks and geese, who are now, as in previous outbreaks, being scapegoated as the reason why factory farm chickens, turkeys, and ducks are contracting and spreading avian influenza amongst themselves.

It doesn't take much to figure out that crowding thousands of creatures together in a suffocating, filthy confinement building, where they are forced to breathe each other's breath nonstop, causes any number of contagious diseases, including but not confined to bird flu.

In addition to the filthy, contaminated buildings in which these birds are imprisoned, literally, they are genetically susceptible to a wide variety of man-made diseases because they've been bred for the sole purpose of meat and eggs at the expense of their health and well-being. Their fragile immune system simply cannot cope with the load of disease organisms to which they are helplessly exposed. Even a robust immune system would be overwhelmed by it all. Taken together, all of these environmental and genetic conditions encourage the mutation of bacteria and viruses to become ever more virulent and elusive.

As if the man-made diseases these birds suffer from were not enough, the manner in which they are being systematically exterminated is horrific. The mass killings are blandly referred to by industry, government, and veterinary associations as depopulation.

Depopulation means destroying a building filled with hundreds or thousands of birds or other animals or destroying the entire complex of such buildings that are set side by side. All of the animals in the buildings are intentionally killed, and many, following the massacre, will be buried while they are still alive. Some of you listening to this are no doubt aware of the three main methods that are used to exterminate poultry and pigs on industrial and smaller sized farms.

These methods add insult to injury by being called euthanasia. Euthanasia is a Greek word meaning a good or merciful death. It does not mean death by torture. But the methods being used by agribusiness and government to depopulate millions of birds at a time are in every way pure prolonged torture.

The three main methods of mass extermination of chickens, turkeys, and ducks are these:

  • Covering the birds with firefighting foam. Firefighting foam is a poisonous mixture of chemicals in which the birds slowly drown underneath. They can be seen moving under the foam for a long time. And after they stop moving, it isn't always clear whether they are dead or are still dying as a result of breathing and ingesting this toxic nightmare into their bodies. This method of mass killing birds was approved by the US Department of Agriculture in 2006. Of course, they call it humane, but the real reason they like it is because it requires less labor than the use of carbon dioxide.
  • The standard method of mass exterminating poultry is to suffocate the birds to death with carbon dioxide poisoning. Carbon dioxide is used all the time on chickens, turkeys, and ducks and in laboratories around the world because it's cheap. Workers in poultry houses cover the birds with plastic tarps and pump carbon dioxide under the tarps. It takes many hours for the birds to die. They suffer pain and panic because birds are extremely sensitive to carbon dioxide, which they try desperately to escape from if they can.
  • More recently, the preferred method of killing millions of birds and pigs in buildings all at the same time is called ventilation shutdown. Ventilation shutdown involves baking, cooking, the birds and pigs literally to death over a period of many hours or more. The heat is turned way up, steam is applied, and the ventilation is shut off. Though ventilation shutdown has been condemned by various critics, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has yet to take a stand against it.

The argument used to justify ventilation shutdown, firefighting foam, carbon dioxide, and even wood chippers to destroy millions of chickens and other birds on factory farms is that there is no other way to control avian influenza on the farms. The fact that these farms are no better than cesspools and toilet bowls guarantees that highly pathogenic avian influenza epidemics are here to stay.

Meanwhile, there are many strains of avian influenza, along with contagious bacterial diseases like salmonella. Mass extermination of the birds to control these diseases is standard operating procedure within the poultry industry.

However, these brutal killings are conducted behind closed doors. They do not make the morning headlines or the evening news. While chicken and turkey farmers tell the media how much they are suffering financially, in reality, taxpayers foot the bill through Department of Agriculture reimbursements. These reimbursements or indemnities enable farmers and corporations to restock their farms with more animals and to renovate their facilities.

The only way to end the nightmare is to stop producing chickens and other animals for food. The only way to accomplish this is for consumers to wash their hands once and for all of the misery of animal consumption and choose animal-free, plant-based foods instead. Mass production and mass consumption of billions and billions of living creatures can never be made hygienic or humane.

I hope you have found this talk useful and that you will share it with many other people. Thank you very much for listening and for caring about how we treat all of our fellow creatures by taking positive action to end their suffering and bring happiness to their lives. Thank you, and have a wonderful day.

KAREN DAVIS, PhD is the President and Founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl including a sanctuary for chickens in Virginia. Inducted into the National Animal Rights Hall of Fame for Outstanding Contributions to Animal Liberation, Karen is the author of numerous books, essays, articles and campaigns. Her latest book is For the Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation: Essays on Chickens, Turkeys, and Other Domesticated Fowl published by Lantern Publications & Media.

Karen with Rainbow the rooster.
Photo by Unparalleled Suffering Photography
Rainbow looking into the camera. Karen smiling and looking at Rainbow