Within the poultry industry there is consensus on two main routes to mitigate the damage of an Avian Influenza outbreak. Vaccination is one, mainly adopted by countries where the disease is endemic and who don’t have a large export of poultry products.
The second is stamping out of the virus by a combination of culling the infected flock and preventative destruction of contact flocks or farms within a close range. Both options have their pro’s and cons. Vaccines will not protect 100% and carry the risk that the virus can stay under the radar. Mass culling, especially of non-diseased flocks, goes against common sense. That said, this is generally accepted in the poultry production chain to stay on top of an infection. The incident of French farmers protesting and hindering a preventative culling campaign in the hard hit Pyrénées-Atlantique duck production region, is an exception.
However, it is not only people involved in poultry production which the industry and legislators have to reckon with in dealing with avian influenza. With the virus popping up in more and more countries, consumers are also becoming more aware of standard operating procedures, i.e. preventative culling. In Germany the public prosecutor started a criminal investigation into the culling of day-old chicks, that couldn’t be delivered to the designated farm due to AI. In the Netherlands, animal rights activists started a public awareness campaign with the title: ‘Stop preventative culling’. Society’s acceptance of ‘stamping out’ is slowly crumbling, increasing the pressure on the industry to come up with an alternative plan to stop AI. Who wants to take the first step?