Bird of Doom
More grist to the Bird Flu mill from an organization called GRAIN, which blames the Bird Flu epidemic on concentrated poultry operations. Here is a release on the subject from Farmed Animal Net
A report published by GRAIN, an agriculture sustainability group based in Spain, says that wild and migratory birds are being blamed for avian influenza when large concentrated poultry farms are the primary cause. The report notes that international groups such as the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are emphasizing control of wild birds and "backyard" flocks. However, GRAIN makes the case that although wild birds may transmit avian influenza, the concentration of animals and lack of biodiversity on large chicken farms "amplifies" the disease. The report states, "Backyard farms can act as reservoirs, as the FAO puts it, harbouring bird flu beyond the reach of authorities until it eventually finds its way into intensive poultry operations where the disease amplifies and potentially evolves to more highly pathogenic forms with the potential for transmission between humans."
The well-referenced report cites many comments from FAO officials and details scores of instances where avian influenza outbreaks attributed to wild birds may have been caused by large poultry farms. Despite historically supporting small-scale and backyard poultry farming, the FAO now seems to favor larger operations in support of a "livestock revolution" in less developed countries. GRAIN says this contradicts the agency's past claims of support for poor rural communities that depend on small farming. According to an FAO Senior Animal Health and Production Officer, "The main beneficiaries of the demand surge [for meat in Asia] are large-scale, urban, capital-intensive producers and processors and urban middle and upper class consumers. The overwhelming majority of the poor do not benefit."
Finally, the report also cites instances where large poultry farms have been rushing to slaughter potentially infected chickens prior to veterinary inspection. GRAIN describes a large operation in Thailand: "They saw many diseased chickens arriving in the factory and were ordered to process them, even if they had already died from the illness. We didn't know what the disease was, but we understood that the management was rushing to process the chicken before getting any veterinary inspection." As recently as January 2006, an FAO official acknowledged that "it is possible that wild birds may introduce the virus, but it is through human activities of commerce and trade that the disease spreads." However, the focus of most health groups and the major media continues to be on wild birds and backyard flocks.