Japan killed 17 million chickens after record bird flu outbreak, no place to bury animals

Japan killed 17 million chickens after record bird flu outbreak
Officials in protective suits at a chicken farm where bird flu was detected, Japan, photo: Kyodo / via Reuters

A record bird flu outbreak in Japan has resulted in the killing of over 17 million chickens, the highest number ever recorded. The country is struggling to bury animals as there’s no suitable land in 16 of the country’s 47 prefectures.

When bird flu is detected in an animal at a farm, governments order to kill infected birds and those potentially exposed to the virus. Birds are typically killed by gassing, cervical dislocation, electrocution, or foam-based systems.

With gassing, birds are placed in a chamber or container filled with CO2, which leads to unconsciousness and eventually death. Cervical dislocation means the bird’s neck is stretched to dislocate the cervical vertebrae.

Electrocution can be used to kill birds by passing an electric current through the bird’s body. In large-scale killing operations, foam-based systems may be used. A high-expansion water-based foam suffocates the birds by blocking their airways. 

The killed animals have to be buried or burned. Japanese public broadcaster NHK contacted 26 prefectures in Japan that reported bird flu outbreaks this season and discovered that 16 were experiencing difficulties with burying bodies. There’s not enough land for the number of animals killed.

Sakoda Yoshihiro, a professor at Hokkaido University, told HNK that Japan is already facing a scarcity of available land. He suggested that it is time to drastically review the measures taken to address bird flu outbreaks, such as promoting burning or reducing the number of birds to be killed.


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