Egg and poultry industry leaders have clashed with welfare group Compassion in World Farming over a report describing bird flu as a ticking time bomb that cannot be stopped without major farming reforms.
The Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) report, ‘Bird flu: Only major reforms can end it’, says unless major changes are made across global agricultural production, bird flu will not be stopped, and it will not be possible to reduce the risk of a global human pandemic.
The report, which claims that wild birds are typically victims of the disease rather than the cause, urges governments to implement a 3-point plan:
CIWF has written to government leaders across Europe, the UK and the US, urging them to work with the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to implement the action plan without delay.
Peter Stevenson, report author and chief policy adviser at CIWF, called for urgent action to end factory farming: “Cramming animals together in factory farms is not only totally inhumane, creating the perfect place for bird flu and other viruses to spread and mutate into more dangerous strains…
“Three key actions are needed to tackle this disease – vaccination, a major reform of the poultry industry and an end to factory farming of pigs. Governments around the world must implement this plan without delay. If they don’t, millions more birds and other mammals are likely to suffer and die, and the health of millions of people may be in serious jeopardy.”
Robert Gooch, British Free Range Egg Producers Association CEO, said wild birds were the biggest threat to poultry: “Calling for less intensive poultry systems in the UK is perverse when approximately 70% of laying hens are free-range or organic, and these birds have to be locked up in houses most winters to prevent them being infected with bird flu by wild birds. Wild birds are the source of bird flu, not poultry, and are a big threat to extensive, free-range production.”
Richard Griffiths, British Poultry Council chief executive, said avian influenza was carried into the UK by migratory birds. “Indoor production methods do not aid in the spread of the disease. Conflating disease control with an opinion on how we produce food in the UK is an irresponsible way of approaching our primary concern here: ensuring the health of our birds and the sustainability of a world-class food system producing nutritious and affordable food.”