Preventing the Next Pandemic

Even those of us who have avoided falling ill are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — social distancing, wearing masks, and staying home have come to define most aspects of our lives.Meanwhile, across the country, communities are grappling with how to slow the spread of the disease, care for the sick, and mitigate its severe impact on the economy. But, now that we have seen the destruction that can be wrought by a pandemic disease, we must also understand its cause and source. Because we have an opportunity to use that knowledge to prevent the next pandemic.Virtually all pandemics, and most infectious diseases, are zoonotic, meaning they originate in animals. COVID-19 likely originated in wildlife, as did AIDS, SARS, and Ebola. But other diseases, notably influenza, including the deadlier pandemic versions that have swept the world periodically, typically come from chickens, turkeys, and pigs. The common denominator is animal exploitation, confinement, and cruelty. Changing the way we treat animals is essential to preventing pandemics.The Animal Legal Defense Fund, as experts in animal law and policy, has published the first in a series of white papers providing background and recommendations to lawmakers to reduce our risk of zoonotic diseases. The paper — COVID-19 and Animals — documents the alarming rate of zoonotic disease produced by industrial animal agriculture in the U.S. Some of these diseases have already caused outbreaks in people, including the 1997 Bird Flu (H5N1) and the 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1). In April 2020, a highly pathogenic strain of Bird Flu (H7N3) — a strain which has caused illness in humans — was discovered in a turkey farm in South Carolina. Unless we bring an end to factory farming, it is simply a matter of time before another one of these diseases makes the jump to people, potentially with results far worse than COVID-19.COVID-19 and Animals identifies and quantifies the risks from specific industries. Further white papers, already in development, will offer in-depth legal analysis and policy recommendations for each industry. Ultimately, we will all need to lobby our elected officials to pass laws that prevent the conditions for animals that not only lead to horrific cruelty, but also put us all at unacceptable risk for pandemic diseases. Perhaps the most important lesson of COVID-19 is: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.You can read the full white paper here
For the animals,Stephen Wells, Executive Director
Stephen Wells
Executive Director

‘COVID-19 May Be A Dress Rehearsal For The Coming Plague’ Warns Dr. Greger

‘As long as there is poultry, there will be pandemics’
The way we farm animals is likely to lead to further pandemics, says Dr. Greger

The way we farm animals is likely to lead to further pandemics, says Dr. Greger

The COVID-19 pandemic may just be a ‘dress rehearsal for the coming plague’, according to acclaimed plant-based doctor Dr. Michael Greger.

Dr. Michael Greger, who has a background in infectious disease, is an internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. He is the author of Bird Flu: A Virus Of Our Own Hatching, which looks at infectious diseases and human’s role in them – as well as how we can protect ourselves.

Now his new book How To Survive A Pandemic* looks at the pathogens that cause pandemics and how to face them – and the role chicken farming is playing in the risk of future pandemics.

‘Just a dress rehearsal’

In a promotional video for the book, Dr. Greger says: “The current COVID-19 pandemic, as deadly as it may be, may just be a dress rehearsal for the coming plague.

“Decades ago, a flu virus was discovered in chickens that would forever change our understanding on how bad pandemics could potentially get. It was named H5N1 and appeared capable of killing more than half the people it infected. Half. Imagine if a virus like that started spreading explosively human to human. Consider a pandemic 100-times worse than COVID-19, not the fatality rate of two in 100, but more like one in two. A coin toss.

“Thankfully, H5N1 has so far remained more poultry than people, but it – and other new deadly animal viruses like H7N9 are still out there, still mutating, with an eye on that eight billion-strong buffet of human hosts. With pandemics, it’s always a matter of when not if. A universal outbreak with more than just a few percent mortality wouldn’t just threaten financial markets, but civilization itself as we know it.”

How To Survive A Pandemic

Dr. Greger goes on to discuss how the new book contains ‘everything you need to help protect yourself and your family from the current threat’ as well as tackling the question of what can we do to stop the emergence of pandemic viruses in the first place.

According to Dr. Greger, many infectious diseases including tuberculosis, measles, AIDS, and COVID-19 ‘share a common origin story: human interaction with animals’. So when it comes to limiting the risk of H5N1, Dr. Greger’s proposals including changing the farm system.

He says first we should move away from factory farms, where stressed chickens are kept in cramped, dirty conditions, and fed antibiotics to smaller free-range operations, and then stop eating birds completely.

He said: “The pandemic cycle could theoretically be broken for good. Bird flu could be grounded…[but] as long as there is poultry, there will be pandemics. In the end, it may be us or them.”

*How To Survive A Pandemic is available on Kindle and in audiobook format, and in paperback from August 20.

Scientists say an apocalyptic bird flu could wipe out half of humanity

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The coronavirus has killed over 365,000 people worldwide in just five months — but that’s nothing compared to what could be coming if humans don’t clean up their act when it comes to chickens.

In his new book, “How to Survive a Pandemic,” Dr. Michael Gregor, a scientist and physician who once testified for Oprah Winfrey in her “meat defamation” trial, warns that an apocalyptic virus emanating from overcrowded and unsanitary chicken farms has the potential to wipe out half of humanity.

Greger, a vegan, writes that “In the ‘hurricane scale’ of epidemics, COVID-19, with a death rate of around half of one percent, rates a measly Category Two, possibly a Three. … The Big One, the typhoon to end all typhoons, will be 100 times worse when it comes, a Category Five producing a fatality rate of one in two. … Civilization as we know it would cease.”

While environmentalists warned earlier this month that the world would face another stronger epidemic if we continue to have contact with wildlife, Gregor places the blame squarely on chickens.

“With pandemics explosively spreading a virus from human to human, it’s never a matter of if, but when,” Greger writes.

Citing the bird-based Spanish Flu outbreak of 1920, and the H5N1 outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997, Gregor writes, “the worry is that the virus never stands still but is always mutating. … This is the monster lurking in the undergrowth, the one that makes epidemiologists shudder.”

The Hong Kong outbreak, which originated in a bird market, “started with a three-year-old boy in Hong Kong, whose sore throat and tummy ache turned into a disease that curdled his blood and killed him within a week from acute respiratory and organ failure.” While only 18 people contracted that flu – a third of them died.

During that pandemic, the government killed 1.3 million chickens in an attempt to eliminate the virus – but there have since been two more outbreaks between 2003 and 2009 outside of China.

But with over 24 billion chickens on earth feeding the world, what can be done?

Gregor writes we have to change the entire system – away from large scale farms where chickens are fed antibiotics and are crammed together and pass diseases from one to another easily to smaller, free-range farms … and eventually not eating chickens or ducks at all.

“The pandemic cycle could theoretically be broken for good,” he writes. “Bird flu could be grounded.”

But until then, he warns, “as long as there is poultry, there will be pandemics. In the end, it may be us or them.”

Fish & Wildlife Service focuses on food-related causes for 2018 seabird die-off


A group of seabirds — murres, specifically — nesting in the cliffs. (Photo from the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The exact cause of the 2018 seabird die-off that affected more than a thousand birds in the Bering Strait region, is still unknown. However, scientists with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service believe it is not related to a strain of avian flu that was found in two seabirds, which is at odds with prior theories from a researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

According to Kathy Kuletz, the seabird section coordinator for Fish & Wildlife Service in Alaska, 26 carcasses from the 2018 die-off were sent to them for sampling. Those seabirds were then transferred to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Some of them were not in real good shape when they (United States Geological Society) got them, but they were able to determine that 14 died of starvation, they were highly emaciated. One died from some kind of trauma and two they couldn’t determine. All of those were tested for avian influenza. Two of those came back positive.”

The two birds that tested positive for avian influenza were a kittiwake from Wales and a thick-billed murre from Savoonga. That thick-billed murre was the exact same bird a University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher came across during her studies on St. Lawrence Island in 2018.

“Of course, birds were starving, so that may have been poor foraging ability, that may have been a result. But we’re looking a little bit more at ‘maybe they were sick,’” said Alexis Will, a researcher with UAF’s Institute of Arctic Biology. Will recently explained how she and her fellow researchers found no evidence thick-billed murres experienced food shortages in 2018.

She cited the thick-billed murre from Savoonga with avian influenza as an indicator that the cause of the die-off from 2018 could be due to disease and not food-related.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service disagrees.

“Both H10N6 viruses and H16N3 viruses (or avian flu) have previously been detected in apparently healthy birds,” said Andy Ramey, a research geneticist with USGS’ Alaska Science Center.  “And again, none of these previous detections have been associated with die-off events.”

Based on his more than ten years of studying avian influenza, and previous scientific findings, Ramey is skeptical that the bird disease caused the 2018 die-off. Fish & Wildlife Service is doing more tests and studies to confirm that disease like the avian flu did not cause this large-scale event to happen.

Meanwhile, Ramey, Kuletz and fellow Fish & Wildlife Service seabird biologist Robb Kaler, believe there are other factors contributing to hundreds of birds starving and dying in the Bering Strait region. Those include record warm ocean temperatures, lack of sea ice, and the absence of a cold-water barrier in the Bering Sea from 2018.

“So with the warm water and the lack of sea ice, that’s going to affect the metabolism of both the predator, in this case the seabird, and the prey, whether it’s krill, euphasids or forage fish,” Kaler said. “But that warm water could also affect the abundance and distribution of that prey.”

Although the scientists acknowledge there is still food available for seabirds to eat near St. Lawrence Island, and in the Bering Sea, their prey base is changing and may not be as nutritious as normal. Kaler refers to these types of fish as “junk food.”

“Capelin are very rich in nutrients versus pollock or cod, juvenile cod or pollock, being brought to the nests of a thick-billed murre. Capelin are king and there’s a junk food hypothesis about less nutritional…so the parent has to work harder to provision the nest if they’ve got junk food that they’re bringing back to their chick.”

With ecosystem-wide changes underway in the Bering Sea, Fish & Wildlife Service isn’t ruling out food-related causes of death or that there were potential effects of avian influenza or harmful algal blooms (HABs).

The agency is, however, emphasizing that the 2018 seabird die-off in the Bering Strait region was most likely not associated with avian influenza. Ramey also points out that emaciation is not a clinical sign of influenza in birds, and many of the seabirds they sampled were found to be emaciated.

According to Kaler, they anticipate another seabird die-off will be seen in the Bering Sea this summer while Fish & Wildlife Service works to solve the mystery of the 2018 event. If the Bering Strait region experiences another large-scale dieoff this year, that would be the sixth year in a row featuring mass seabird deaths.

Industry scrambles to stop fatal bird flu in South Carolina

  • Updated 


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An infectious and fatal strain of bird flu has been confirmed in a commercial turkey flock in South Carolina, the first case of the more serious strain of the disease in the United States since 2017 and a worrisome development for an industry that was devastated by previous outbreaks.

The high pathogenic case was found at an operation in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, marking the first case of the more dangerous strain since one found in a Tennessee chicken flock in 2017. In 2015, an estimated 50 million poultry had to be killed at operations mainly in the Upper Midwest after infections spread throughout the region.

“Yes, it’s concerning when we see cases, but we are prepared to respond very quickly and that was done in this case,” said Lyndsay Cole, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The USDA has been working in recent months with scientists and farmers in North Carolina and South Carolina, where a low pathogenic — or less severe — strain of bird flu had been detected.

Low pathogenic bird flu causes few clinical signs in infected birds. However, two strains of low pathogenic bird flu — the H5 and H7 strains — can mutate into highly pathogenic forms, which are frequently fatal to birds and easily transmissible between susceptible species.

Low pathogenic cases were already in an area near the South Carolina and North Carolina state line and USDA was closely monitoring and testing. The case in Chesterfield County, South Carolina was expected to be another low pathogenic case, but it came back from the laboratory high pathogenic which means the less severe virus mutated into the more severe version, Cole said.

“Our scientists at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory had looked at the virus characteristics of the low path virus and they had previously indicated that this was one that was probably likely to mutate so they were watching it very closely,” Cole said.

A laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the virus with that had been killing turkeys was a high pathogenic H7N3 strain of avian influenza.

A report on the outbreak indicates in was discovered on April 6. It has killed 1,583 turkeys and the remainder of the 32,577 birds in the flock were euthanized.

State officials quarantined the farm, movement controls were implemented and enhanced surveillance was already in place in the area.

“The flock was quickly depopulated and will not enter the marketplace,” said Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation, an industry trade group. “Thorough disinfecting and cleaning procedures have already been initiated on premises as well as surveillance of commercial flocks in the surrounding area. This occurrence poses no threat to public health. Turkey products remain safe and nutritious.”

These measures were implemented after an H5N2 avian influenza outbreak that began in December 2014 swept commercial chicken, egg laying and turkey populations throughout much of 2015 killing 50 million birds and causing as much as $3 billion in economic damage. That outbreak is believed to have originated in wild birds.

Nearly 90 percent of the bird losses were on egg-laying chicken farms in Iowa and turkey farms in Minnesota. The bulk of other cases occurred in the adjacent states of Nebraska, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.

Cole said since 2015 significant planning, exercises and coordination has occurred between the federal government, state agencies and the industry.

Cole said the coronavirus pandemic has not affected the ability of the government to respond to the bird flu.

A highly pathogenic H7N9 bird flu strain was detected in Lincoln County, Tennessee, in a chicken flock of 73,500 birds in early March 2017. Ten days later samples from a commercial flock less than two miles away also tested positive for the same strain. The birds were euthanized and buried and the virus didn’t spread further indicating immediate mitigation action can stop spread.

Letter: Animal pandemic strikes again

Letters to the editor

50 million Chinese locked down. 15 countries affected. Five confirmed cases in the U.S. These dramatic headlines announce one more pandemic caused by our abuse of animals.

Indeed, 61 percent of the 1,415 pathogens known to infect humans originate with animals. These so-called zoonetic diseases claiming millions of human lives include Asian flu, Hong Kong flu, West Nile flu, bird flu, swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola, HIV, SARS, and yellow fever. The pandemic “Spanish” flu of 1918 may have killed as many as 50 million people worldwide.

Western factory farms and Asian street markets are virtual breeding grounds for infectious diseases. Sick, crowded, highly stressed animals in close contact with raw flesh, feces, and urine provide ideal incubation media for viruses. As these microbes reach humans, they mutate to defeat the new host’s immune system, then propagate on contact.

Each of us can help end these deadly pandemics by replacing animal products in our diet with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. These foods don’t carry flu viruses, or government warning labels, are touted by every major health advocacy organization, and were the recommended fare in the Garden of Eden. The internet offers ample recipes and transition hints.

Tate Harringer


Chinese Officials Announce “Highly Pathogenic” Strain Of Bird Flu That Can Spread To Humans

After the deadly coronavirus, China is now reporting an outbreak of a dangerous strain of H5N1 bird flu. The outbreak was reported at Shaoyang city in Hunan province and has already killed 4000+ chickens. And, in the wake of the outbreak, Chinese authorities have culled over 17,000 chickens.

People can get infected by coming in to close contact with infected live or dead chickens or through H5N1-contaminated environments and the rate of mortality is about 60%, according to the WHO. They also added that spread of the virus from person to person is unusual.

The farm that saw the outbreak is just south of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus which has now claimed hundreds of lives and spread to other countries, including India, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, France, the United States and Canada. Experts say that meat from wildlife trade may be where the virus originated and a temporary ban has been placed on wild animal trade.

The epidemics also highlight the root of the problem: industrialized animal agriculture. Chickens, cows, pigs and other animals are bred in close quarters with little or no ventilation, living in their own filth, all to cater to our appetite for meat. Now, more than ever, governments and citizens need to take note of how and what we eat is affecting the planet in more ways than one. By simply choosing to go plant-based, one can help reduce the demand for farmed meat worldwide.

*Feature image courtesy Moving Animals Archive

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Read more: Watch The End Of Meat – A Hard-Hitting Documentary That Reveals The Real Impact Of Meat Consumption

Live finches being smuggled into US in hair rollers discovered

Live finches being smuggled into US in hair rollers discovered

In this photo provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, some of the 70 live finches hidden inside hair rollers found Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport are displayed. Authorities say a passenger arriving from Guyana had the songbirds in a duffel bag. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP)

NEW YORK — Customs officials at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport say they found 70 live finches hidden inside hair rollers.

Authorities say a passenger arriving from Guyana on Saturday had the songbirds in a duffel bag.

The New York Times reports officials believe the birds were brought to the U.S. to participate in singing contests. Customs officials say people bet on how many times the finches chirp, and a winning male finch can sell for up to $10,000.

The birds were turned over to veterinarians to the U.S. Agriculture Department, and the passenger was sent back to Guyana.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says bird smuggling could threaten agriculture through the possible spread of diseases such as bird flu.

Customs officers have seized about 184 finches this year.

More Than 1000 Migratory Birds Found Dead at Rajasthan’s Sambhar Salt Lake


By TWC India Edit Team

2 days ago

TWC India

Representational image of migratory birds River Ganga


In a shocking episode, more than 1,000 migratory birds were found dead under mysterious circumstances at Rajasthan’s Sambhar Salt Lake on Monday, November 11.

Located near Phulera in Jaipur, Sambhar Lake witnesses a vast number of winged visitors during the winter season. Tourists and ornithologists from across the world regularly visit the region as it plays host to various migratory species of birds including the Northern Shoveler, Green Bee-Eater, Cinnamon Teal coming from Siberia, north Asia and other places. As the winter season progresses, the forest department is running against time to identify and address the cause of such mass deaths.

While the carcasses were immediately buried, officials have sent samples of the birds’ visceral remains to the forensic science laboratory in Bhopal. Experts say no signs of bird flu were observed till now, and the likely contamination of water could be the trigger. Further examination of birds’ internal organs could help pinpoint the cause of death.

Sambhar Salt Lake, Rajasthan

(Credits: Bhagirath/BCCL Jaipur)

While officials claim that the death toll is 1,500, the locals claim that the number of dead birds could be around 5,000. The dead bodies were found around a section of the Sambhar Salt Lake named Ratan Talab. Different species of waders and ducks, including the likes of pallas’ gull, ruddy shelduck, ruddy turnstone, gull-billed tern, redshanks, black-winged stilts, common coots, plovers, avocets, shovelers and sandpipers, were among the waterbirds whose dead bodies were found at the lake.

The officials buried the bird carcasses in a ditch. While a total of 669 dead birds were buried, many others were left unattended as it was difficult for the forest department personnel to go into the slippery muddy areas to retrieve their carcasses.

The incident of mysterious bird deaths is a second in Rajasthan within a week. Thirty-seven Demoiselle cranes were found dead in Vijay Sagar Lake in the Alwar district of Rajasthan on last Thursday. However, no link has been found in the two mass-death incidents, as the cranes supposedly died after eating poisoned grain. Officials have sent their viscera too for investigation.

The Sambhar Salt Lake is India’s largest inland saltwater lake. Located in Jaipur district of Rajasthan, it spreads across 190 to 230 square kilometres.

The lake has always attracted a host of migratory birds that travel tens of thousands of kilometres, typically to escape harsh winter conditions. However, the developmental activities around Sambhar in recent years, including the extension of salt pan operations, new settlements and changes in the weather, have reportedly decreased the number of birds flocking to the lake.

(with inputs from IANS)

Officials hunt for suspected pigeon killer after 40 found dead in Somerset

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

AT RISK: The dead birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner on the loose

OFFICIALS in Somerset are hunting a suspected bird poisoner after more than 40 pigeons were killed – including some that fell out of the sky dead.

Investigators including police and the RSPCA are looking into a spate of dead pigeons in Wells and say it is possible they were poisoned.

The birds started appearing in the High Street and beyond at the end of July – on roads, pavements and in people’s gardens.

The birds showed no obvious injuries or signs of disease, leading to suspicions there was a pigeon poisoner in the city.

As many as 40 dead birds have been reported.

One woman found three in her garden and there there was even a report of one falling out of the sky and landing on a woman carrying a coffee.

It was suggested the birds might have been suffering from “pigeon canker”, a disease prevalent during the breeding season.

But autopsy carried out voluntarily vets proved ‘inconclusive’.

Wells City Councillor Celia Wride said: “I must say poisoning was my immediate reaction at the time.

“If this is a case of somebody putting down some killer feed for them we need to find out and do something about it. This is not the way to go about things.”

The matter has been referred to the police who passed it on to Natural England, the Government quango that advises the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on conservation and wildlife.

Natural England passed the matter onto the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has responsibility through the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.

It is an offence to injure or kill a wild bird under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, except under licence, and offenders can face an unlimited fine and/or six months imprisonment.

Tests for bird flu and West Nile Virus carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) proved negative.

A spokesman for the HSE said: “While HSE are unable to confirm the range of tests carried out by APHA as part of this post-mortem, the report provided did not state a view that disease was responsible for the pigeons’ deaths.”

Further analysis of tissue samples is currently being carried out by Fera Science Limited to determine if pesticides were used. This can take up to eight weeks.

If the toxicological report does indicate pesticide use, this information will be considered along with the field investigation report to try to identify whether the exposure took place from an approved use or not.

If abuse is suspected, then the information will be referred back to the police who are responsible for catching the pigeon poisoner.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “We are not sure what has happened, but we believe they may have been poisoned.

“The pigeons were taken to a vet by a member of the public and post mortems carried out.”

As well as being a deliberate act of poisoning the spokesperson said any potential source could also include poisonous substances not being safely stowed away.

Anyone with information that might help with the investigations is asked to call the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018 in confidence.