Report on Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) and the Mass Killing
"In an unscientific effort
to prevent the spreading of END (exotic Newcastle disease), the
task force kills all birds in an area where END has been allegedly
located, regardless of the bird's status as a healthy, disease-free
bird." - Attorney William H. Dailey in a Petition filed
on March 24, 2003
Photo by: Karen Davis
In January, California Gov. Gray Davis and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared a state of emergency
to protect California's $3 billion poultry and egg industry from
exotic Newcastle disease (END), a contagious virus that affects
the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and, while
said to be harmless to humans, "can cause pink eye in rare
circumstances," according to Pima County, Arizona Sheriff's
Detective Mike Duffey.
In February, UPC President Karen Davis joined a meeting of animal
protection groups, concerned citizens, journalists, and government
officials in Los Angeles to discuss the handling of the situation.
Hosted by attorney William Dailey, and Cherylynn Costner of the
Hillary Chicken Memorial Fund, the meeting also included representatives
of The Fund For Animals, the Humane Farming Association, The Humane
Society of the United States, Last Chance for Animals, the Parrot
Society of Los Angeles, Mike and Sue Swallow, and others.
On March 24, 2003, attorney William H. Dailey filed a Petition
with the Superior Court of California on behalf of 13 bird owners,
the Hillary Chicken Memorial Fund and the Association of Veterinarians
for Animal Rights, urging the court to order Gov. Davis to rescind
his emergency order calling for the eradication of exotic Newcastle
disease through the "expeditious disposal of poultry"
and to order Davis and government agencies to establish due-process
protections that prevent authorities from arbitrarily slaughtering
companion or show birds. "We're asking the court to tell
the government to do things differently and to obey the constitution,"
Dailey said. "Over 3 million birds were slaughtered to date
just in California and most of them weren't infected." Dailey's
motion accuses Gov. Davis and the CA task force of "repeated
abuses of constitutional rights and cruelty toward citizens and
violations of animal anti-cruelty statutes."
To read the Petition go to
For updates call Cherylynn Costner, Hillary Chicken Memorial Fund:
"Men in white suits come to your door to kill your precious
birds." - Sue Swallow
So far the USDA and CA Dept of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) have
killed more than 3 1/2 million birds at a cost to taxpayers in
excess of $40 million, including $12.8 million paid in indemnities
to bird owners (Scripps Howard, 4/1/03). Chickens,
parrots, ducks, geese, pigeons, turkeys, emus, peafowl, and other
birds were, and are now being, killed, the majority showing no
sign of the disease. If one bird tests positive in a
flock consisting of one bird or a million birds, all of the birds
California resident Sue Swallow describes the treatment of companion
birds: "A vet shows up with a bunch of low paid thugs and
prison labor. In full view of a family, including the children,
they catch the birds they can catch, tape their legs together,
put each one in a plastic bag, and gas them with carbon dioxide.
The ones they can't catch they shoot with pellet guns until they
are dead. Geese and emus they bludgeon to death with clubs."
can't even drive past the Norco Egg Ranch anymore. Just the thought
of a quarter of a million innocent chickens who never saw the
sun, never got to put their feet on the ground, never got to have
a life, and then gassed like Jews in a concentration camp and
thrown away like garbage, all to benefit a select bunch of well-connected
millionaires, turns my stomach." - Mike and Sue Swallow
Though cockfighting has been illegal in California since 1905
- as is raising roosters for fighting, participating in or attending
a cockfight and possessing fighting paraphernalia -there are at
least 3 million game birds in the state and 50,000 - 60,000 owners
(Poultry Times, 2/17/03). A county detective explains,
"These guys have two to 400 roosters, on the pretext of raising
show birds. They're tied to stakes, in the open, and go through
a training regimen to make them fighters" (Modesto Bee,
2/9/03). Cockfighters bring birds up from Mexico and move them
from state to state despite federal quarantines. They work on
poultry and egg farms, tracking the disease into chicken houses.
Despite the illegality of cockfighting in California
and 47 other states, USDA is compensating cockfighters whose birds
are destroyed under the END eradication program, as high as $1,850
per bird (The Californian, 3/15/03). This compensation
supports cockfighting and encourages cockfighters to "find"
END, kill their birds, and introduce new birds in order to get
paid. California resident Mike Swallow told UPC (3/13/03), "They
hide 5 or 6 dead birds and after depopulation sell those dead
birds to other cockfighters to infect their birds and get the
The Poultry and Egg Industry: Culpability and Reward
"END spreads rapidly among birds kept in confinement,
such as commercially raised chickens." USDA Fact Sheet
"Chicken ranchers should be thrilled that the government
has such a generous program to shield them from financial ruin."
- Scripps Howard, 4/1/03
In addition to END's being transmitted through infected birds'
droppings and secretions from the nose, mouth, and eyes, a USDA
Fact Sheet (1/6/03) explains that the disease "is often spread
by vaccination and debeaking crews, manure haulers, rendering
truck drivers, feed delivery personnel, poultry buyers, egg service
people, and poultry farm owners and employees." And while
the mass killing of birds to eradicate END is being done to protect
the poultry and egg industry, there is another side to the slaughter,
exemplified by the egg rancher who killed 100,000 of his hens,
not because they had END but because they were "spent."
Since he couldn't truck them to slaughter due to the quarantine
in his area, he was reimbursed for every hen "pouring over
the side of the truck," whereupon he told the Los Angeles
Daily News (2/15/03), "For a guy who's been losing money
for three years this could be the first sizable check in a long
That's because the state is paying egg companies $2 to $5 per
bird for losses incurred under the END eradication program, an
exchange welcomed by an industry that's been trying to reduce
the U.S. flock size for years and normally gets -0 to 10 cents
per unwanted hen. U.S. egg companies normally suffocate
their "spent" flocks in dumpsters and sell them to renderers,
having no other market for their "product."
"They'd be crying all the way to the bank," if their
chickens were stricken, one poultry producer told the Los
Angeles Times (1/8/03). It is thus reasonable to suppose
that many flocks are intentionally being "stricken"
and that END has to do not only with cockfighting but collusion
between the egg industry and the government to consolidate the
industry and eliminate the smaller guys, who are killing their
birds, taking the money, and selling their land to real estate
- Urge U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman to endorse,
and your Members of Congress to support, the Ensign-Allard-Cantwell
(Senate) and Bartlett-Andrews (House of Representatives) legislation
that increases interstate commerce in birds intended for cockfighting
from a misdemeanor to a felony. Tell Secretary Veneman to stop
reimbursing cockfighters as part of the END eradication program.
Tell your Members of Congress you do not want your taxes used
to benefit cockfighters but to support a federal program to
uphold federal and state laws that prohibit cockfighting.
The Honorable Ann Veneman
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington DC 20250
The Honorable _________
Washington DC 20510
The Honorable _________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515
To find your U.S. Senators and House Representative call
the Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121 or go to www.hsus.org.
- Tell Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and your Members of
Congress you do not want your taxes used to indemnify the poultry
and egg industries for their "losses" - the suffocation,
gassing, and "mulching" of millions of helpless birds.
Ask why U.S. taxpayers are being forced to prop up these billion-dollar
industries. The CA poultry industry is valued at $3.2 billion
and the U.S. chicken industry at nearly $17 billion. Request
a written response