US hen flu outbreak: thousands and thousands of birds culled in ‘most inhumane way available’ | Hen flu

The US poultry marketplace has increasingly switched to “the most inhumane strategy available” to cull tens of hundreds of thousands of birds during the newest outbreak of avian influenza, in accordance to authorities details.

Outbreaks of the disorder, also recognized as chicken flu, have wreaked havoc across Europe and the US this 12 months, with 38 million birds killed in the US so considerably.

But how these birds are killed has generated controversy, with veterinarians and animal welfare campaigners urging an conclude to the use of the ventilation shutdown approach, which kills animals by sealing off the airflow to the poultry sheds and growing temperatures to lethal stages.

Staff have described the strategy as like “roasting animals alive”. European officers have mentioned it must not be utilised in the European Union.

In the US, nevertheless, the American Veterinary Professional medical Association (AVMA) lists ventilation shutdown with supplemental warmth as “permitted in constrained circumstances” for “depopulation”.

A new investigation has uncovered that it has now become the major system for killing birds, utilised in nearly 3-quarters of culls.

The assessment of US Office of Agriculture (USDA) details by the Animal Welfare Institute observed 73% of culls in the US in February and March (the most latest period for which info is accessible) concerned the use of air flow shutdown.

This represents a spectacular shift from the final fowl flu epidemic, in 2015, which resulted in the killing of 50 million farmed birds in the US. Through that outbreak, the animals were predominantly killed by carbon dioxide poisoning or smothered in a blanket of firefighting foam.

US hen flu outbreak: thousands and thousands of birds culled in ‘most inhumane way available’ | Hen flu
Additional than two-thirds of culls in the US so much this yr involved the use of ventilation shutdown. Photograph: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals Media

“The default system of killing would seem to have transformed from foam to ventilation shutdown,” mentioned Dena Jones, director of the AWI farm animal programme, who reported the design and style of poultry housing “ensures they will not be in a position to humanely destroy them”.

A USDA spokesperson claimed “some housing models do not make it possible for for successful depopulation utilizing foam” and that the carbon dioxide technique was “hindered by offer shortages”. The division fiscally compensates farmers for culling animals.

Activists have protested in opposition to the popular use of air flow shutdown, most notably by disrupting basketball game titles to attract focus to Glen Taylor, the billionaire proprietor of the Minnesota Timberwolves workforce who also owns an Iowa egg farm where 5.3 million hens were killed using air flow shutdown.

Two figures in white protective suits are seen in the distance amid mounds of bare soil
The burial pit for some of the millions of chickens at an egg plant in Rembrandt, Iowa. Photograph: Dan Brouillette/The Guardian

A coalition of vets and animal legal rights advocates have urged the AVMA to reclassify the technique as “not recommended”. The deficiency of response so significantly from the AVMA “harms animals and the veterinary profession’s standing as caring advocates for animals”, according to Crystal Heath, a vet and co-founder of the ethical veterinary group Our Honor.

In the EU and the United kingdom, birds are culled with carbon dioxide gasoline or nitrogen-infused foam, which are regarded to be more humane strategies than using firefighting foam when carried out the right way since they render the animals unconscious right before killing them, Jones mentioned.

The European Food items Safety Authority says air flow shutdown should really not be applied, but there have been reviews of producers in France becoming specified crisis authorization to use it.

The EU also considers the use of firefighting foam to destroy birds as inhumane since it entails “drowning in fluids or suffocation by occlusion of the airways”.

The USDA did not react to a issue about whether any actions were becoming taken to involve much less distressing cull techniques or prevent air flow shutdown from getting the default in foreseeable future outbreaks.

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