NAEF Responds to HSUS Misinformation About Bird Flu

Dear Editor of the Green Bay Press Gazette: Publishing today's article “Industrial Agriculture To Blame in Bird Flu Outbreak” is unworthy of your readers due to the many untrue statements.



 The author from the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) referencing the emergence and spread of virulent strains of avian influenza has been attributed to “the overcrowded, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions in today’s industrial animal agriculture system”. What experts are making these claims and where is the science for such claims? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service Avian influenza is a viral disease that occurs internationally and can infect wild birds (such as ducks, gulls, and shorebirds) as well as domestic poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese).  This current outbreak has USDA reporting a number of flocks with this disease including a number of small backyard flocks, one with only 10 birds.  This certainly disputes the author’s claim of “overcrowding” is behind the disease. This is a flu for birds just as there is for people—and, as with people, some forms of the flu are worse than others. HPAI can spread fast and quickly kill chickens and turkeys. Wild birds, however, can carry HPAI viruses without appearing sick. Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths).So, the claims by federal officials that waterfowl is a likely source of the virus are not without merit. 


HSUS has tried repeatedly to besmirch the modern conventional cage systems in the egg industry today and the author’s statements of unsanitary condition is just one more attempt. Today’s modern conventional egg farm is regulated for food safety under the FDA egg safety law known as “Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs During Production, Storage, and Transportation.  The FDA rule includes sanitation procedures along with cleaning and disinfection which are overseen by federal inspectors coming to every commercial egg farm.  The farms are also routinely swabbed to determine if Salmonella is even in the environment let alone the chicken or the eggs.  


The Green Bay Press Gazette readers should instead be informed that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally. This disputes the HSUS writer’s statement “In the wake of public health scares such as bird flu.”  He’s the one causing the scaring of the public by making false statements.


It’s unfortunate that the author with HSUS would use the unfortunate circumstance of a poultry disease to bring out misinformation supporting the misguided agenda of HSUS.  Hopefully your readers will realize this also.