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USDA Condones, While HSUS Condemns, Ventilation Shut Down in Indiana Avian Flu Cases

The Humane Society of the United States expresses its concerns about the use of “Ventilation Shut Down” as a method for controlling avian influenza on commercial poultry production operations. VSD kills birds by shutting down ventilation and increasing the air temperature. This method involves essentially baking birds to death over a period of time which can last hours and involves intense suffering. The USDA condones the use of VSD in response to the recent outbreak of avian flu in Indiana.

The Humane Society of the United States Chief Veterinary Officer Michael Blackwell, D.V.M., M.P.H., said, “There are more humane ways to mass euthanize poultry than intentionally causing heat stroke, which is absolutely a horrible way to die. VSD should only be considered as an absolute last resort, and not the first response to an outbreak.” 

Dr. Blackwell noted that the USDA added “ventilation shut down” as a possibility after the last avian flu outbreak, but that it doesn’t bode well that the agency invoked its use in the first crisis it faced, leading The HSUS to conclude that the “last resort” assurances were more rhetorical than real.

The current system of confining hundreds of thousands of egg-laying hens in battery cage facilities, and millions on a single farm site, creates ideal conditions for the spread of the bird flu virus between animals and the emergence of highly pathogenic strains. It’s time for the USDA to help transition the egg industry to the cage-free systems many of the industry’s leaders already recognize are the future.

Media Contact:
Elizabeth Walker: 240.672.6013; ewalker@humanesociety.org

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