France to kill 2.5 million birds after avian influenza outbreaks

Brown chickens in cages, animal news
Egg-laying chicken farm, photo: eakkachaister via Canva

France will kill a total of 2.5 million birds after several avian influenza outbreaks in the southwest of the country, the French farming ministry said on Thursday.

By Thursday, authorities had killed around 1.2 million animals, the ministry said. Another 1.3 million birds would be killed as a precautionary measure to control the virus.

Spain reported an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus on a farm with 18,900 birds north of Madrid, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Tuesday.

The spread of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza, or bird flu, in Asia and Europe has raised concern among governments after previous bird flu outbreaks led to the killing of tens of millions of birds.

Last year, governments killed over 50 million turkeys, ducks, chickens and geese to try to control the virus.

Dutch virologist Thijs Kuiken of Erasmus University Rotterdam said that intensive bird farming is the reason the highly pathogenic, sickening form of bird flu emerged.

“Normally, wild birds only carry the low-pathogenic variant. In intensive poultry farming, this mild flu mutated into a serious variant,” Kuiken said. Years ago, this variant escaped from animal farms in Asia, and since then, wild birds and farm birds have also had to deal with it, he added.

“In the long term, we have to realize that the intensive way of raising animals, with a huge number of animals huddled together in one spot, is no longer sustainable for many reasons,” Kuiken said.

“If we don’t stop doing that, we will automatically encounter another outbreak of bird flu or a still unknown ‘disease X’,” he concluded.

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