22nd February 2006
Wild Birds are Victims not Villains in Bird Flu Fiasco, says Viva!
The focus on wild birds in the hysteria surrounding bird flu is a deliberate distraction from the true source of the disease ? modern poultry farming ? claims vegetarian campaigns group Viva!
Deadly avian influenza viruses such as H5N1 are rare in wild birds. The real threat comes from intensively farmed poultry, kept at high density and constantly exposed to faeces, saliva and other secretions. These provide ideal conditions for the replication and mutation of viruses from which highly lethal forms can evolve and spread.
It is no coincidence that those SE Asian countries which have not developed large-scale intensive poultry production have largely been spared from the disease whilst neighbouring countries experience repeated infections. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that in Laos, 42 out of 45 outbreaks affected intensive poultry units. Myanmar, a country almost devoid of large scale poultry farms, has had no outbreaks.
The timing and pattern of deadly bird flu outbreaks has been largely inconsistent with wild bird movements but have frequently followed major poultry trade routes. According to Birdlife International, no species migrates westwards from Qinghai, China, to Eastern Europe. However, many of the SE Asian countries affected by H5N1 are major poultry exporters, with China and Thailand accounting for 15 per cent of global poultry shipments. In 2002 the EU imported 175,000 tonnes of poultry from these two countries. The view that poultry movements have played a major role in the spread of the disease is supported by an analysis of viral strains recently published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The reluctance of governments and other international monitoring bodies, such as the FAO and World Health Organisation, to highlight the role of intensive animal agriculture in the creation and spread of this lethal disease is an attempt to protect an economically important industry at the cost of human life.
?Human beings have the unique ability not to learn from their mistakes?, says Viva! campaigner Toni Vernelli. ?Scares related to farmed animals are emerging with growing regularity as their numbers remorselessly increase and some have the potential to devastate the human race. The time has come to stop rearranging chairs on the Titanic?s deck and admit that there?s an iceberg dead ahead?.
?The solution to bird flu and foot and mouth, poisoning and prions, superbugs and strokes, coronary heart disease and some cancers, is to go vegetarian?.
For more information contact Toni Vernelli or Juliet Gellatley on 0117 944 1000 or read Viva!?s bird flu fact sheet here: http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/chickens/brdflu_factsheet.html