5th February 2007
Bird Flu ? End Factory Farming Before it Ends Us!
Intensive animal production already a major threat to human health
Three years in succession, the animal campaign group Viva! has carried out undercover investigations at Bernard Matthews intensive turkey sheds in Norfolk and has today issued a stark warning that conditions ensure that H5N1 bird flu virus will never be detected until well established. The practice of selectively breeding one type of bird for weight gain has produced genetically weakened animals, Viva! claims, and the overcrowded, windowless sheds in which they are forced to live ensures any new pathogen spreads like wildfire.
?Most factory farmed turkeys can only be kept alive by the daily use of antibiotics in their feed and water,? says Justin Kerswell, campaigns manager, ?and yet still there is a death toll of up to 10 per cent. This means that in a shed of 25,000 birds, dozens die every day and no one will show any concern until the whole flock starts to perish. By this time, the virus could have been spread widely by workers and other vectors. But even worse, our investigations have shown that in the overcrowded conditions dead birds may not be removed and can be left to rot where they die?.
Viva! argues that there are many free-range poultry farms in Suffolk and Norfolk and it is inconceivable that migratory birds are the cause of the current outbreak. It believes it is no coincidence that the SE Asian countries where H5N1 is much more common are those with intensive poultry industries while those which have not developed factory farming have largely been spared from the disease.
The reluctance of governments and other international monitoring bodies, such as the UN 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, Viva! claims.
?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,? adds Mr Kerswell. ?They have played a major part in the development of hospital superbugs and antibiotic strains of Ecoli and salmonella and the endless supply of cheap meat from factory farming is central to the growing epidemics of heart disease, cancer and obesity. If H5N1 is going to mutate into a human to human virus, it is inside sheds such as those at Bernard Matthews that it is likely to originate.
?The time has come to stop rearranging chairs on the Titanic?s deck and admit that there?s an iceberg dead ahead. Consumers must take matters into their own hands. The best way to protect you and your family is to reject factory farmed meat and go vegetarian?.
For more information contact Justin Kerswell or Juliet Gellatley on 0117 944 1000 or read Viva!?s bird flu fact sheet on online: http://www.viva.org.uk/campaigns/chickens/brdflu_factsheet.html