Misconception Number 26: Animal diseases, such as avian flu, are spread because animals are allowed to be outside. If they were all kept indoors, the disease would not spread to animals in holdings.
Summary of Counter-Arguments:
Details of Counter-Arguments:
Bird flu is nothing new. It has co-existed rather peacefully with wild birds, small-scale poultry farming and live markets for centuries. But the highly-pathogenic strains of bird flu, such as the deadly H5N1, are essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices. H5N1ís epicentre is the factory farms of China and Southeast Asia and, while wild birds can carry the disease (at least for short distances), its main vector is the highly self-regulated transnational poultry industry, which sends the products and waste of its farms around the world through a multitude of channels . One of the standard ingredients in industrial chicken feed, and most industrial animal feed, is "poultry litter," a euphemism for whatever is found on the floor of the factory farms, including fecal matter, feathers, and bedding. Chicken meat, under the label "animal by-product meal," also goes into industrial chicken feed. Furthermore, since only five breeding companies supply producers with more than 90 percent of the laying hens world-wide, if one of those breeding companies has an outbreak, the disease is spread quickly to farms worldwide. Reports prepared by the UNís Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that outbreaks in one Asian country after another began in intensive poultry farms, which had taken day-old chicks directly from Thailand, the regional hub of the poultry business.
The genetic diversity of poultry on small farms is critical to the long-term survival of poultry farming in general. Bird flu does not evolve to highly pathogenic forms in backyard poultry operations, where low-density and genetic diversity keep the viral load at low levels. When backyard farms are separated from the source of highly pathogenic bird flu, the virus seems to die out or evolve towards a less pathogenic form. The FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reported that there is "growing evidence that the survival of the virus in smallholder and backyard poultry is dependent on replenishment" . It is in crowded and confined industrial poultry operations that bird flu, like other diseases, rapidly evolves and amplifies.
There is no evidence that keeping birds indoors does anything to stop the virus , and wild bird testing and migration route analysis suggest that wild birds are a minor source, if a source at all, of virus transmission. Instead, it is the link between backyard production and the industrial poultry system that are so problematic. Backyard farms are also often intimately connected to the industrial system, through markets, inputs (such as day-old chicks and feed), and even veterinary services. The opportunity is always there for highly pathogenic bird flu to pass from the industrial system to small-scale poultry farms.
Backyard producers (geared to local and family needs) do not send their birds and bird waste across borders, maintain high genetic diversity in poultry populations, and do not confine and stress the animals as much as industrial settings. Moreover, avian flu outbreaks in smallholdings tend to burn themselves out. Therefore, the solution to bird flue and other animal epidemics seems to be the abolishment (or at least the implementation of much sounder practices and much stricter control) of industrial poultry facilities, not the harassment of small outdoor poultry units. When it comes to bird flu and other fast-spreading animal diseases, diverse small-scale farming is the solution, not the problem.
 FAO and OIE, in collaboration with WHO, op cit, p 17 and p 22.
 A Stegemen et al., "Avian influenza A virus (H7N7) epidemic in the Netherlands in 2003: Course of the epidemic and effectiveness of control measures," Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2004, 190:2088-2095; ME Thomas et al, "Risk factors for the introduction of high pathogenicity Avian Influenza virus into poultry farms during the epidemic in the Netherlands in 2003," Preventative Veterinary Medicine, 2005, 69:1-11
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