The worst outbreak of avian flu in American history continues to march across the country. There are now confirmed outbreaks in 15 states. A few days ago Nebraska became the latest state to declare a state of emergency as a result.
Over 35 million chickens on factory farms throughout the Midwest have been slaughtered in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease.
Iowa, where over 25 million chickens have been killed, has been affected the most. From the New York Times:
Iowa, where one in every five eggs consumed in the country is laid, has been the hardest hit: More than 40 percent of its egg-laying hens are dead or dying. Many are in this region, where barns house up to half a million birds in cages stacked to the rafters. The high density of these egg farms helps to explain why the flu, which can kill 90 percent or more of a flock within 48 hours, is decimating more birds in Iowa than in other states.
Once the infection is discovered, the CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) owner is required to kill every bird in the facility as a precaution. The method of execution is carbon dioxide gassing or some sort of deadly foam. Imagine millions of hens desperately trying in vain to escape the tiny cages where they’ve been kept all their lives, as they’re being sprayed with a poisonous foam.
What we have done to these creatures for the sake of cheap eggs is shameful.
As authorities struggle to figure out how to dispose of tens of millions of dead diseased birds, the scenes are ghastly.
Mounds and mounds of carcasses have piled up in vast barns here in the northwestern corner of Iowa, where farmers and officials have been appealing for help to deal with disposal of such a vast number of flocks. Workers wearing masks and protective gear have scrambled to clear the barns, but it is a painstaking process. In these close-knit towns that include many descendants of the area’s original Dutch settlers, some farmers have resorted to burying dead birds in hurriedly dug trenches on their own land, while officials weighed using landfills and mobile incinerators.
Elsewhere the article refers to men in hazmat suits tossing dead chickens out of a barn into a Hertz rental truck.
Maybe, hopefully, the disease will be contained.
But maybe it will continue to spread across the land, affecting both backyard flocks and CAFO chicken prisons. Maybe someday someone with a badge will even show up here on our farm, with the supposed authority to kill our chickens.
Nature does not like monocultures. Concentrating so many animals of one species into such a small area is an invitation to an epidemic.
Let us hope that this is a wake up call.
We simply have to restore some sanity to how we produce food in our culture.