France allows farmers to suffocate their animals, 10 million birds killed

Chickens in cages, they can't move
Chickens at an egg farm, photo: Pedarilhos via Canva

France has authorized some farmers to kill their chickens, turkeys, ducks and other birds by suffocation to stop the spread of bird flu, French Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie said on Tuesday. 

Since November, ten million birds have been killed in France after bird flu outbreaks, Denormandie said. When bird flu is detected at a farm, all animals, also the healthy ones, are killed, either by gassing or electrocution.

The minister said that when bird flu is detected, farmers are now also allowed to stop ventilation, so their animals suffocate. Farm unions and animal welfare activists call the practice cruel and unacceptable.

Intensive animal farming
The highly contagious H5N1 strain of bird flu has been spreading quickly in Europe in recent months, prompting massive killings in several countries.

Dutch virologist Thijs Kuiken of Erasmus University Rotterdam said intensive bird farming is to blame for the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu. “Normally, wild birds only carry the low-pathogenic variant. In intensive poultry farming, this mild flu mutated into a serious variant,” Kuiken said. 

“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 added.

“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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