Bird flu: Is the stable obligation useful?


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It is obvious that bird flu is a danger to wild birds and the poultry industry. However, it is still not fully understood how the triggering H5N8 virus actually spreads. The federal government has imposed on the suspicion that the disease could be transmitted by migratory wild birds, a stable obligation for chickens and other poultry such as running ducks imposed. However, many private poultry keepers see this as officially imposed cruelty to animals because their stables are far too small to permanently lock the animals in it.

Avian Influenza: A Global Animal Trade Problem?

Ornithologist Prof. dr. Peter Berthold

Ornithologist Prof. dr. Peter Berthold

We have the well-known ornithologist Prof. dr. Peter Berthold asked about bird flu. The former director of the Vogelwarte Radolfzell on Lake Constance considers the spread of bird flu by migrating wild birds to be less plausible. He, like some other independent experts on the transmission pathways of the aggressive disease, has a very different theory.

MY: Prof. Dr. Berthold, you and some of your colleagues such as the renowned zoologist Prof. dr. Josef Reichholf or employees of the NABU (Nature Conservation Union Germany) doubt that migratory birds can lure the bird flu virus into Germany and infect the poultry here in Germany. Why are you so sure about this?
Prof. Dr. Peter Berthold: If it really were migratory birds that had been infected with the virus in Asia, and they would infect other birds on their flight path to us, that would have to be noticed. Then we would have seen in the news messages such as "Countless dead migratory birds on the Black Sea" or the like. So, starting from Asia, a trace of dead birds would have to come to us, as in the case of a human flu outbreak, whose spatial spread can be easily predicted. But this is not the case. In addition, many cases can be assigned neither time nor place to migratory birds, either because they do not fly to these places or they simply do not pull in this season. From East Asia to us there are also no direct migrant bird connections.

MY: How do you explain the dead wild birds and the infection cases in poultry farming?
Berthold: In my opinion, the cause lies in factory farming and in the global transport of poultry as well as the illegal disposal of infected animals and / or the associated feed production.

MY: You have to explain something in more detail.
Berthold: The animal breeding and keeping have reached orders of magnitude in Asia, which we can not imagine in this country. There, food quantities and countless juveniles are "produced" under questionable circumstances for the world market. In this case, the sheer quantity and poor housing conditions cause illnesses, including bird flu, over and over again. Subsequently, the animals and animal products reach the world over the trade routes. My personal guess and that of my colleagues is that the virus spreads in this way. Be it about the food, the animals themselves or about contaminated transport crates. Unfortunately, there is no evidence yet, but a United Nations-appointed task force (Avian Influenza and Wild Birds) is in the process of investigating these possible routes of infection.

MY: But then would not at least in Asia corresponding incidents be publicized?
Berthold: The problem is that in Asia the problem of bird flu is handled differently. If a freshly-hatched chicken is found there, hardly anyone asks if it has died of an infectious virus. The carcasses either end up in the cooking pot or return via the feed industry as animal meal back into the food cycle of mass animal husbandry. There are also speculations that migrant workers, whose lives in Asia are few and far between, die from eating infected poultry. An investigation does not happen in such cases.

"Even in Germany probably many carcasses disappear."

MY: So, one can assume that the problem of avian influenza in Asia occurs to a much greater extent than with us, but is not perceived or examined at all?
Berthold: You can assume that. In Europe, the guidelines and examinations by the veterinary offices are relatively strict and that's something that stands out earlier. But it would also be naive to believe that all animals that die in factory farming are presented to an official veterinarian.Many cadavers are also likely to disappear in Germany because poultry farmers must fear a total economic loss in the event of a positive bird flu test.

MY: In the end this means that the possible ways of infection are at best researched half-heartedly for economic reasons?
Berthold: While I and my colleagues can not claim that it really is so, suspicion arises. In my experience, it can be ruled out that bird flu is introduced by migratory birds. It is more likely that the wild birds become infected in the vicinity of the fattening farms, because the incubation period of this aggressive disease is very short. That is, it breaks out immediately after the infection and the diseased bird can fly only a short distance, until he finally dies - if he ever flies away. Accordingly, as already explained, at least on the migration routes dead birds would have to be found in larger numbers. Since this is not the case, the core of the problem in my view, especially in the globalized mass animal trade and the associated feed market.

MY: Then is the stable obligation for poultry, which is also true for hobbyists, actually nothing more than forced animal cruelty and senseless actionism?
Berthold: In my opinion, it brings nothing at all. In addition, the stables of many private poultry farmer are far too small to confine their animals around the clock in good conscience. To get a grip on the problem of avian influenza, much should change in factory farming and international animal trade. However, everyone can do something by not just the cheapest chicken breast on the table. One must not forget in the whole problematic that the increasing demand for ever cheaper meat exposes the whole industry to a high price pressure and thus promotes criminal activities.

MY: Thank you for the interview and the open words, Prof. Dr. med. Berthold.

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