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CIWF Calls on EU to Protect Animal Welfare in Face of Bird Flu Threat
23/02/06

Compassion in World Farming calls on EU governments to protect animal welfare and organic producers in the face of an avian influenza threat.

chickens

CIWF is calling for any cull of poultry by EU governments to be carried out swiftly, efficiently and humanely in the event of an avian influenza outbreak. 

The organisation is also lobbying the EU Commission for a temporary derogation to enable organic poultry and eggs to be marketed as ‘organic’ should governments require farmers to move their birds indoors. 

CIWF’s Chief Executive Philip Lymbery comments: “The spectre of avian influenza poses a double threat to producers of free range and organic chicken and eggs. Their birds, like those incarcerated in Europe’s factory farms, could be culled en masse and avian influenza might force them to move their birds indoors, this would cause financial hardship and compromise their businesses, which aim for much higher animal welfare standards.

“For these reasons, it is vital that the EU allows both free range and organic chicken and eggs to continue to be marketed as ‘free range’ or ‘organic’ if birds are ordered indoors. At the moment free range producers have been assured of a temporary derogation to permit this but organic producers have yet to receive one.”

CIWF and its European partner organisations (ECFA) have lobbied the OIE, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation and EU governments to ensure international readiness for humane management of birds affected by avian influenza and to prevent the spread of the disease via poultry movements and poor bio-security.

The organisation fears that humane slaughter standards will fall by the wayside as countries rush to destroy birds should avian influenza spread to domestic poultry. This has already happened in many countries where infected birds have been suffocated in bags, burned or buried alive. Worryingly, the European Safety Authority’s Animal Welfare panel has stated that such inhumane methods also increase the risk of the disease spreading.

The 2001 foot and mouth outbreak in the UK saw some of the best animal welfare legislation in the world being ignored with many reports of animals not being properly slaughtered and surviving for long periods in pain and distress. The 2003 avian influenza outbreak in the Netherlands, another country with relatively high farm animal welfare standards, also involved significant animal suffering that could have been avoided.

Philip Lymbery adds: “Governments must ensure any emergency killing is swift, efficient and humane. It is more important now than ever before for consumers to support the free range industry by buying its products. It would be a tragedy indeed if a virus were allowed to wreck the humanity that free range has brought to farming.”

link Bird flu virus advances in Nigeria
link Bird flu: concern grows over possible spread in West Africa
link Avian flu in Africa: FAO/OIE urge quick action
link Bird flu virus could spill over to Africa and Europe in springtime

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