• Becci Pigeon

1,500+ 'lockdown chickens' abandoned and hundreds of thousands more slaughtered as H5N8 virus rages

Updated: Jan 20

Even as we continue suffer the effects of COVID, another zoonotic virus of our own making is running rampant throughout the UK and India--the H5N8 avian flu. This particular strain of avian flu, the result of intensively raising literally billions of chickens, turkeys and ducks every year, has yet to make the leap to humans. Animal farmers confidently assure us that it is not a threat, even as they slaughter hundreds of thousands of farmed birds in a desperate attempt to control the virus and even as thousands more wild birds like geese, swans, knots and more are being found infected and dying. Scientists say that a strain of avian flu represents a much greater threat than even COVID, and that the next pandemic is likely to emerge from a poultry farm (like the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed 50 million people and was traced back to a chicken farm in rural America) or a pig farm.

But try telling that to the animal farmers--as Upton Sinclair once said, 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.'

This spiral of animal exploitation and our continued inadvertent creation of deadly viruses has dove-tailed neatly. During the first part of our initial lockdown, when panic buying meant that supermarkets were low on many items, hatcheries experienced a rush of business as people rushed out to buy chicks so as to keep well supplied with their eggs. And now the RSPCA reports that these birds are being abandoned in droves out of fear of H5N8. Some are being turned in at shelters, but others are simply being dropped off in the wild to die of predation, starvation or illness.

Even in pre-COVID times, 'backyard chickens' were not infrequent victims of abandonment--some people are surprised to discover that the birds are animals who require care and attention, not brainless egg machines; others accidentally hatch a noisy cockerel. Still others are only willing to care for the birds until they become inconvenient or potential veterinary bills prove too 'expensive'.

As usual, the animals pay for our mistakes...and then, in the era of COVID, they pay for them again. 3 out of 4 emerging infectious diseases are the result of animal exploitation; is there any chance that we'll ever learn?

(On that note, it's not too late to join 500,000 other people and sign up for Veganuary!)

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