The poultry industry needs to be reformed in order to stop the spread of avian influenza, a new report released by Compassion in World Farming has warned.
The report – called Bird flu: Only major farm reforms can end it – claims that, contrary to popular belief, wild birds are typically victims of the disease rather than the cause, and it is spiralling out of control due to farming.
The report urges governments to implement a three-point action plan which includes:
- Mass vaccination of flocks to slow the spread
- Radical restructuring of the poultry industry, to adopt smaller flocks with lower stocking densities and more robust breeds and avoid clusters of poultry farms to reduce the risk of highly pathogenic strains emerging and spreading.
- Changing the way pigs are farmed as pigs can act as ‘mixing vessels’ to create new pig, bird and human viruses.
The NGO has written to the UK government and others across Europe, in the UK and the US urging them to work with the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to implement this action plan.
The report says poultry farms create the ideal conditions for the spread of the disease as they give viruses a constant supply of hosts – allowing infections to spread rapidly – and for highly harmful new strains to emerge.
More than half a billion farmed birds have died or been culled globally due to bird flu since 2021.