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Italy bird flu: intensive farming in dock

News Section Icon Published 17/12/2014

An indoor turkey farm near Venice, Italy, is the latest to report an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain of avian influenza.

More than 1,200 birds are reported to have died from among the flock of almost 32,000, all of whom will now be culled.

As with all the other cases in the most recent round of outbreaks in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK, the disease has been found on a farm where birds are not allowed outside, which contradicts calls from some in the industry to bring all birds indoors to keep them safe from the virus.

Compassion’s CEO Philip Lymbery says: “It’s saddening to hear of this latest case of bird flu in Italy, and to see that, once again, it has been discovered on a farm where birds are not allowed outside.

“When the bird flu virus is present in the pressure-cooker environment of an intensive farm, the disease can mutate dangerously. Once a virus gets into an intensive poultry shed with many thousands of birds crowded together, it can move quickly through the flock, constantly replicating itself.

“Any 'errors' or changes to the genetic code during replication don't get repaired: this is how the virus mutates and new variant strains emerge. Intensive farms provide ideal conditions for the emergence of new aggressive disease strain. All of the cases in this outbreak so far in Europe have been on these farms – we should resist any knee-jerk calls to bring birds indoors.”

As always in cases where culling is deemed necessary, Compassion is calling for only the most humane slaughter methods to be used.



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