We all know that chickens and turkeys have miserable lives in most of today’s commercial farms. Yet another way chickens and turkeys suffer is from epidemics of disease that rapidly spread in the extremely overcrowded conditions in which they live, known as factory farming.
An outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in chicken and turkey flocks has quickly spread across 24 U.S. states since it was first detected in Indiana on Feb. 8, 2022. Better known as bird flu, avian influenza is a family of highly contagious viruses that are not harmful to wild birds that transmit it, but are deadly to domesticated birds. As of early April, the outbreak had caused the culling, more properly called killing, of some 24 million birds from Maine to Wyoming.
Suffer the chickens. Getting bird flu causes chickens to suffer by the million, often resulting in death. But even more chickens have suffered the culling. How do you kill 24 million chickens? Some farms have had to kill more than 5 million chickens at a single site with a goal of destroying the birds within 24 hours to limit the spread of the disease.
One of the preferred methods is to spray water-based firefighting foam over birds in the barn. That foam kills the animals by cutting off their air supply. They choke to death. Another technique a technique called ventilation shutdown. In that scenario, farmers stop airflow into barns, which raises temperatures to levels at which the animals die. They cook the chickens while they’re still alive. Horrible!
Usually bird flu viruses only infect other birds. It is rare for people to get infected with bird flu viruses, but it can happen. Two types, H5N1 and H7N9, have infected some people during outbreaks in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. There have also been some rare cases of other types of bird flu affecting people in the United States. However, there is some worry that the virus might mutate some day in the future and cause an epidemic among humans.
The disease, the suffering it causes and the suffering from culling (killing) is preventable. It doesn’t have to happen. If people stopped eating chickens then the crowded factory farms would disappear, and with it would go the bird flu epidemic. The massive suffering would end too.