Dutch government kills 411,000 chickens after two bird flu outbreaks

Brown chickens behind a fence, animal news
Chicken farm, Netherlands, photo: Taju_S via Canva

The Dutch government will kill 411,000 chickens in the first week of January after bird flu was detected. Late on Tuesday, authorities announced they would kill 189,000 chickens on two neighbouring farms in the east of the Netherlands after the virus was discovered.

On Monday, the government announced it would kill 222,000 chickens on two farms in the northern province of Friesland due to bird flu; 177,000 thousand on a farm where the virus was detected and 45,000 on a nearby farm as a safety measure.

“And the mass destruction of chickens continues. Today 189,000 chickens are gassed. Just imagine that…. Stop this madness! Every life has a right to life,” Dutch animal welfare organization Eyes on Animals said on Twitter on Wednesday after the government announced the second mass killing this week.

At the end of October, the Dutch government announced that farmers had to keep their animals inside to maintain avian influenza outbreaks, but the virus keeps spreading. For chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese, this meant that they were not allowed to see any daylight in their already shortened lives for the food industry.

The chickens, who will be killed this week, were solely raised for the food industry; some are used to lay eggs, and others are killed for their meat when they’re only a few months old.

When bird flu, also known as avian influenza, is detected at a farm, all animals, the sick and ‘healthy’ ones, are killed and usually also the animals on farms nearby. Farmers then continue to raise more animals to fill the gap.

Mass killing of chickens is done by gassing them or suffocating them with foam. After they’re killed, their bodies are destroyed and not sold to humans for consumption.

The ‘normal’ way of killing chickens for consumption is by gassing them, or live-shackle slaughter, where the animals are hung upside down by their legs plunged into a tub of electrified water to knock them out.

Their throats are then slit, and they are dumped in extremely hot water to remove their feather. Some chickens don’t die immediately, which means they’re conscious when boiled.

The rise of bird flu in animals has governments worried, but the increase in human cases, which sometimes lead to death, is also alarming. China had the most human bird flu cases in 2021.

Plant-based meat alternatives are becoming more popular, in Asia mostly for health reasons; people still want ‘meat’ but not from animal protein after COVID-19 and African swine fever scares.

Animal welfare organizations, environmental groups and some politicians have long argued to reconsider the intensive animal farming industry, which has grown immensely in the last two decades, to prevent the next pandemic.

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