Daily Messenger, Friday, March 9, 2007, Canandaigua, NY
By Karen Davis, PhD
Recent articles in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and elsewhere show the ongoing concern that the avian influenza virus H5N1 could cross our shores. So far, the virus has confined itself mainly to foreign countries, where reportedly it has killed fewer than 200 people, while instigating the death and destruction of hundreds of millions of chickens and other birds in the live poultry markets and factory farms that have enabled avian flu viruses to mutate and spread in the first place.
Last month, an outbreak of the H5N1 virus on a large turkey factory farm in Britain confirmed a report by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006 that the virus will most likely enter western countries through an infected poultry trade, including the international trade in live chicks and contaminated feedstuffs, rather than from migrating waterfowl.
Avian influenza viruses have lived harmlessly in the intestines of waterfowl for millennia. Shed in sparsely populated outdoor settings in the droppings of birds whose immune systems have evolved to accommodate them, these viruses are held in check. But industrialized poultry production practices – including the severe overcrowding of birds and attendant lack of hygiene – have vastly increased the ability of avian influenza viruses to mutate into highly pathogenic strains, like the H5N2 and H7N3 viruses that have already struck commercial poultry flocks in the United States and Canada.
Many Americans would be surprised to learn how many tax-funded massacres of birds are quietly conducted on U.S. factory farms to control the viruses and bacteria that thrive in those places. So rampant are pathogens in the poultry houses that last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture added firefighting foam to gassing and other government-approved methods of exterminating chickens and turkeys en masse – methods that veterinarians have publicly criticized as horribly inhumane.
Even without bird flu, people should know that poultry is the most common cause of food poisoning in the home. In January, Consumer Reports published a study conducted in 2006 in which 83 percent of chickens purchased from U.S. supermarkets and specialty stores were found to be contaminated with Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria – a substantial increase from their 2003 findings. In addition, 84 percent of the Salmonella and 67 percent of the Campylobacter bacteria showed resistance to antibiotics.
While many are calling for an end to the intensive poultry production practices responsible for bird flu and other transmittable diseases, it is highly unlikely that the demand of billions of people for poultry and egg products can be met without the industrial mass-production methods that generate these diseases. By contrast, an animal-friendly, vegan diet is not only an ethical opportunity to create a less violent, cruel and toxic world, but an intelligent food safety initiative that doesn’t depend on the government. For more information, including free recipes, please visit our Web site at www.upc-online.org.
Karen Davis, PhD is president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.|
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150