The Humane Society of the United States is opposing the recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture policy for controlling avian influenza on commercial poultry production operations, which allows for the use of “Ventilation Shut Down.”
Shutting down ventilation systems in these operations essentially bakes the birds to death over a period of time which can last hours and involves intense suffering.
The Humane Society of the United States Chief Veterinary Officer Michael Blackwell, D.V.M., M.P.H., said:
“Animals suffer immensely with any outbreak of an epidemic like avian influenza, and we shouldn’t compound the problems for birds by subjecting them to a particularly miserable and protracted means of euthanasia. The industry and the USDA need to find a better way to contain the spread of bird flu. Meanwhile, research and field testing of more humane methods, along with a public comment period, must be an imperative for government agencies involved in responding to these types of animal health emergencies.”
The current system of confining hundreds of thousands of birds in battery cage facilities, and millions on a single farm site, only adds to the problem. The overcrowded and filthy conditions for animals on today’s factory farms create ideal conditions for the spread of the bird flu virus between animals.
Many egg producers are now shifting to less intensive cage-free systems, which were far less hard hit by bird flu. It’s time for the USDA to help transition the egg industry to the cage-free systems many of the industry’s leaders recognize are their future.