Man jailed six weeks for illegal import of two birds and animal cruelty

Two zebra doves were crammed in separate socks and placed in two drawstring pouches hidden in a man's pants during a foiled attempt to smuggle in the birds.
Two zebra doves were crammed in separate socks and placed in two drawstring pouches hidden in a man’s pants during a foiled attempt to smuggle in the birds.PHOTO: AVA

SINGAPORE – A 46-year-old man was sentenced to six weeks in jail on Wednesday (Sept 19), after he was convicted of animal cruelty and illegally importing two birds.

Abdul Rahman Husain tried to smuggle two live zebra doves into Singapore on May 12 without an import licence from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), said a joint statement from AVA and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

ICA officers had stopped Rahman for checks at Woodlands Checkpoint when they detected the two doves crammed in separate socks and placed in two drawstring pouches hidden in his pants.

The birds were found to be in poor condition, and Rahman’s action was deemed by AVA to have caused unnecessary suffering to the birds. The birds were seized and placed under the care of Wildlife Reserves Singapore.

Rahman was sentenced to six weeks’ jail for illegal import of the birds, and another six weeks’ jail for failing to ensure that the birds were not subjected to unnecessary suffering.

Both sentences will run concurrently.

Anyone convicted of smuggling animals and birds into Singapore can be fined up to $10,000, and jailed for up to a year.

Animals that are smuggled into Singapore may introduce exotic diseases, such as bird flu, into the country.

Deadly bird flu H7N9 spreads worldwide due to China refusal to give samples to help with production of vaccine

Deadly bird flu Deadly bird flu H7N9 is spreading all over the world cause China is refusing to give virus samples to United Kingdom and US in order to produce vaccine. As it was known Chinese authorities have refused to give sample of the virus cause it possibly breaks WHO rules.

Deadly worlwide pandemic will be caused by a stain of bird flue,as experts warn cause the country is decreasing efforts to product vaccines.  As it was also reported UK and US have tried to convice China in order to get the virus H7N9 samples in order to protect humans from the disease.

Professor Ian Jones, from the University of Reading said: ‘If the virus were to jump it would become a pandemic strain.’

Dr Michael Callahan, a disease expert at Harvard University warned: ‘Jeopardizing US access to foreign pathogens and therapies to counter them undermines our nation’s ability to protect against infections which can spread globally within days.’

The virus H7N9 is not causing symptoms to birds but to humans could have deadly results. Tests have shown that it could cause caughing fever, breathing problems, pneumonia or organ failure and worst of all could have deadly results.

WHO earlier this year ranked the bird flu as one of the major pandemic treats.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam UK Government’s deputy chief medical officer, said: ‘[H7N9] is an example of another virus which has proven its ability to transmit from birds to humans. It’s possible that it could be the cause of the next pandemic.’

China risks sparking global pandemic with new deadly bird flu strain

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1010616/Bird-flu-news-China-UK-pandemic

CHINA is endangering millions of lives and could cause of a global pandemic by refusing to share the latest strain of deadly bird flu with British scientists, experts have warned.

China risks pandemic with deadly bird flu strain

China risks global pandemic with new deadly bird flu strain (Image: GETTY)

Countries are usually happy to share viral samples in the common interest of stopping the spread of dangerous viruses, under an agreement established by the World Health Organisation.

But China has so far caused outrage by refusing to do this, despite a request reportedly made more than a year ago by top British scientists.

There have been at least 1,625 cases of H7N9 in humans so far in China. About 40 per cent of those people infected have died.

The UK and United States have prioritised gathering as much intelligence as possible on the virus, which England’s deputy chief medical officer warned is a strong candidate for becoming the next global flu pandemic.

Jonathan Van-Tam said: “[H7N9] is an example of another virus which has proven its ability to transmit from birds to humans. It’s possible that it could be the cause of the next pandemic.”

The virus cannot currently be passed from one human to another, and most people infected so far came in to close contact with poultry.

However, it is said to be only a few mutations away from being able to transfer between humans.

If this was to occur then scientists fear the virus could could become as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed up to 100 million people a century ago.

How bird flu could become a worldwide PANDEMIC

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China bird flu pandemic risk

Bird flu in China mostly spreads through chickens (Image: GETTY)

They want to study any changes in its genetic structure, to help develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.

Prof Ian Jones, an expert in virology at the University of Reading, said: “If the virus is going to jump, you want to be ahead of the game with a vaccine.”

China reportedly shared early forms of H7N9 in 2013 and 2016 with other countries.

But a request said to have been made by the UK more than a year ago – for samples of the latest strain – was said by a source to have been ignored.

China has also snubbed approaches from the USA for over 12 months.

The virus was first identified in humans in 2013, but may have been common among birds for much longer.

It generally does not have a visible affect on birds, but symptoms among humans include a high fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Those with the severe form of the disease develop acute respiratory distress syndrome – where the lungs cannot provide the body with enough oxygen – septic shock and multi-organ failure.

China was said to have given no reason for its failure to share samples of the virus with other countries.

China Has Withheld Samples of a Dangerous [Bird] Flu Virus [H7N9]

Despite an international agreement, U.S. health authorities still have not received H7N9 avian flu specimens from their Chinese counterparts.

Image
Health workers attending to an H7N9 avian flu patient in Wuhan, China, in 2017. CreditCreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images
For over a year, the Chinese government has withheld lab samples of a rapidly evolving influenza virus from the United States — specimens needed to develop vaccines and treatments, according to federal health officials.

Despite persistent requests from government officials and research institutions, China has not provided samples of the dangerous virus, a type of bird flu called H7N9. In the past, such exchanges have been mostly routine under rules established by the World Health Organization.

Now, as the United States and China spar over trade, some scientists worry that the vital exchange of medical supplies and information could slow, hampering preparedness for the next biological threat.

The scenario is “unlike shortages in aluminum and soybeans,” said Dr. Michael Callahan, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School.

“Jeopardizing U.S. access to foreign pathogens and therapies to counter them undermines our nation’s ability to protect against infections which can spread globally within days.”

Experts concur that the world’s next global pandemic will likely come from a repeat offender: the flu. The H7N9 virus is one candidate.

Since taking root in China in 2013, the virus has spread through poultry farms, evolving into a highly pathogenic strain that can infect humans. It has killed 40 percent of its victims.

If this strain were to become highly contagious among humans, seasonal flu vaccines would provide little to no protection. Americans have virtually no immunity.

“Pandemic influenza spreads faster than anything else,” said Rick A. Bright, the director of Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees vaccine development. “There’s nothing to hold it back or slow it down. Every minute counts.”

Under an agreement established by the World Health Organization, participating countries must transfer influenza samples with pandemic potential to designated research centers “in a timely manner.”

That process — involving paperwork, approval through several agencies and a licensed carrier — normally takes several months, according to Dr. Larry Kerr, the director of pandemics and emerging threats at the Department of Health and Human Services.

But more than one year after a devastating wave of H7N9 infections in Asia — 766 cases were reported, almost all in China — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still waiting for several viral samples, the National Security Council and the W.H.O. confirmed.

Scientists at the Department of Agriculture have had such difficulty obtaining flu samples from China that they have stopped requesting them altogether, according to a government official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

At least four research institutions have relied upon a small group of H7N9 samples from cases in Taiwan and Hong Kong. (All four asked not to be identified for fear of further straining ties.)

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Chinese Center For Disease Control and Prevention also did not reply to inquiries regarding the transfer.

When the H7N9 virus first appeared in China, researchers say the Chinese government at first provided timely information. But communication has gradually worsened.

Yet a sudden spike in infections during the 2016-2017 outbreak wave demands intense research, said scientists aiming to understand the virus’ evolution.

Image
Health workers culling chickens in Hong Kong in 2014 following an outbreak of avian flu.CreditPhilippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Recent trade tensions could worsen the problem.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative in April released a proposed list of products to be targeted for tariffs — including pharmaceutical products such as vaccines, medicines and medical devices.

So far, none of those medical products have landed on the final tariff lists. But lower-level trade negotiations with China concluded on Thursday with few signs of progress, increasing the likelihood of additional tariffs.

The United States relies on China not only for H7N9 influenza samples but for medical supplies, such as plastic drip mechanisms for intravenous saline, as well as ingredients for certain oncology and anesthesia drugs. Some of these are delivered through a just-in-time production model; there are no stockpiles, which could prove dangerous if the supply was disrupted, health officials said.

Scientists believe top commerce officials in both governments view the viral samples much like any other laboratory product, and may be unfamiliar with their vital role in global security.

“Countries don’t own their viral samples any more than they own the birds in their skies,” said Andrew C. Weber, who oversaw biological defense programs at the Pentagon during the Obama administration.

“Given that this flu virus is a potential threat to humanity, not sharing it immediately with the global network of W.H.O. laboratories like C.D.C. is scandalous. Many could die needlessly if China denies international access to samples.”

For over a decade, epidemiological data and samples have been used as trade war pawns.

China hid the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, for four months and then kept the findings of its research private. Some provinces withheld information about cases even from the central government in Beijing.

In 2005, Chinese authorities insisted an H5N1 influenza outbreak was contained, contradicting University of Hong Kong scientists who offered evidence that it was expanding. Those authorities hesitated to share viral samples from infected wild birds with the international community, concealing the scope to avoid a hit to their vast poultry industry.

Indonesia followed suit, refusing in 2007 to share specimens of H5N1 with the United States and United Kingdom, arguing that the countries would use the samples to develop a vaccine that Indonesians could not afford.

Those episodes led to the 2011 development of the W.H.O.’s Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, which aims to promote sample exchanges as well as developing countries’ access to vaccines.

But for countries like China, bearing the burden of a novel virus is paradoxical. Outbreaks are expensive — the wave of H7N9 infections in 2013 alone cost China more than $6 billion, according to the United Nations — but they can provide a head-start in developing valuable treatments.

“In a sense, China has made lemonade from lemons — converting the problem of global infectious disease threats into lifesaving and valuable commodities,” Dr. Callahan said.

And now, as the H7N9 virus evolves, United States authorities worry that the Chinese have obfuscated the scale and features of this outbreak.

The Chinese government has refused to share clinical data from infected patients, according to scientists, and claims to have all but eradicated H7N9 through a single poultry vaccination campaign.

“Influenza is going to do what it does best, which is mutate,” Dr. Kerr said.

EARLIER REPORTING ON THE TRADE FLIGHT AND BIRD FLU
U.S. and China to Rekindle Trade Talks as More Tariffs Loom

Bird Flu Is Spreading in Asia, Experts (Quietly) Warn

Animal Rights and Public Health Advocates Disrupt NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett Over Ritual Sacrifice

https://theirturn.net/2018/07/01/activists-disrupt-nyc-health-commissioner-mary-bassett/

JULY 1, 2018 BY 

As NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett began delivering remarks at a forum about charitable giving, activists angered by her refusal to enforce health codes violated during an animal sacrifice shut down her talk.  This was the fifth time that activists have disrupted Commissioner Bassett over her support of Kaporos, a religious ritual during which ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City swing an estimated 60,000 six-week old chickens around their heads and slaughter them, contaminating the streets and sewers with their blood, body parts, feathers and feces.

“How can Commissioner Bassett make a presentation in good conscience about taking care of the less fortunate when she’s endangering the health of some of NYC’s most vulnerable residents?” asked Nathan Semmel, one of the organizers of the disruption. “We know we can’t ask Dr. Bassett to align her behavior with the values she publicly espouses, but we can demand that she enforce the law.”

A dozen animal rights and public health advocates disrupt NYC Health Commissioner over her refusal to enforce health codes violated during a mass animal sacrifice on public streets.

The most recent protest comes on the heels of news about the spread of bird flu. On June 15th, Newsweek reported that The Centers for Disease Control said the current strain of avian influenza has “the greatest potential to cause a pandemic of all human viruses.”  If the flu spreads to the United States, New Yorkers will be particularly vulnerable because tens of thousands of city residents come into contact with the sick and dying chickens who are stacked in crates on the streets for several days leading up to the Kaporos ritual.

NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett refuses to acknowledge a toxicology report which includes avian flu as one of many health risks associated with the ritual sacrifice Kaporos (center photo: Unparalleled Suffering Photography)

Sources inside the administration say that Commissioner Bassett is refusing to enforce the health laws because the ultra-Orthodox Jews who violate them represent a powerful voting bloc that helped to elect her boss, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett refuses to acknowledge the multiple health codes are violated during a mass sacrifice of 60,000 six week old chickens on public streets.

“Not only does Dr. Bassett refuse to enforce the health codes, but she also refuses to acknowledge a toxicology report which unequivocally states that the violations jeopardize the public health by exposing New Yorkers to e-coli, salmonella, avian flu and many other pathogens and toxins,” said Jessica Hollander, who participated in the protest.  “Her decision to put politics ahead of public health will come back to haunt her if a disease outbreak occurs because she has been warned by experts that the illegal animal sacrifice poses serious health risks.”

Multiple health codes are violated during Kaporos, a ritual animal sacrifice, but NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett turns a blind eye because the practitioners represent a powerful voting bloc.

Seabirds Washing Up Dead; Scientists Investigating

A dead murre lies on the sand where it washed ashore in Nome in June 2018.

SEABIRDS have once again been found washed up on beaches in Western Alaska.

Beginning in May, birds have been reported dead or behaving strangely in communities throughout the Bering Strait region, from Shishmaref to Unalakleet and on St. Lawrence Island.

Large-scale die-offs of seabirds and other marine animals have been occurring around the state for several years, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wants to know why. That takes the help of boots-on-the-ground partners across Alaska.

Gay Sheffield is one of those partners. She’s a marine biologist with Alaska Sea Grant in Nome, and she has helped coordinate the collection of dead birds. She says only one bird has been tested so far this year: a murre, collected in Unalakleet in May.

“The murre was tested for harmful algal blooms, tested for avian cholera, was tested for bird flu, and a full necropsy—or a little bird autopsy—was done, and the result was that the bird had starved to death.”

But, she says, knowing that a bird ultimately didn’t get enough food doesn’t answer the larger question of why it died.

Robb Kaler is a wildlife biologist at USFWS’s Migratory Bird Management office in Anchorage. He’s been monitoring the seabird die-offs statewide.

“They’re dying of starvation, but there might be other contributing factors.”

Kaler says factors contributing to bird deaths could include neurotoxin poisoning from algal blooms, increased storminess, or shifts in the type of fish available to birds to eat. And, he says, many of the factors could be connected to warming sea surface temperatures off the coast of Alaska.

Both Sheffield and Kaler underscored the importance of collecting more freshly dead birds. More samples mean more testing — and more information that can be returned to communities where healthy seabirds mean food security.

Kaler says:

“We need to provide them with answers on whether these birds are safe to consume or not, whether their eggs are safe to consume.”

Several birds were recently collected from Shishmaref and Gambell. Test results are forthcoming.

To report a seabird or other marine animal found dead or behaving strangely, contact Gay Sheffield at 434-1149 or Brandon Ahmasuk at Kawerak at 443-4265. You can also call U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Dead Seabird Hotline at (866) 527-3358.

Image at top: A dead murre that washed ashore in Nome in June 2018. Photo: Zoe Grueskin, KNOM.

Chinese Chicken Is Headed To America, But It’s Really All About The Beef

Listen·3:18

Chicken meat for sale at a market in Anhui province, China.

VCG via Getty Images

Cooked chicken from birds grown and raised in China soon will be headed to America — in a trade deal that’s really about beef.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Thursday night that the U.S. was greenlighting Chinese chicken imports and getting U.S. beef producers access to China’s nearly 1.4 billion consumers. But the deal is raising concerns among critics who point to China’s long history of food-safety scandals.

The Chinese appetite for beef is huge and growing, but American beef producers have been locked out of that market since a case of mad cow disease cropped up in the U.S. in 2003. In response, many countries, including South Korea, Japan, Mexico and China, banned imports of U.S. beef.

China was the only one of those nations to not eventually lift its ban — and that’s a big deal.

“It’s a very big market; it’s at least a $2.5 billion market that’s being opened up for U.S. beef,” Ross said in announcing the trade deal.

Many people long had seen China’s refusal to lift its ban on U.S. beef imports as a negotiating tactic, a tit for tat aimed at allowing Chinese chicken imports into the United States. The negotiations that led to the new trade deal have been going back and forth for more than a decade, stalled at one point by worries in Congress over China’s food-safety practices.

American beef producers are rejoicing that the process has finally resulted in allowing them to send beef to China.

“After being locked out of the world’s largest market for 13 years, we strongly welcome the announcement that an agreement has been made to restore U.S. beef exports to China,” Craig Uden, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said in a statement. “It’s impossible to overstate how beneficial this will be for America’s cattle producers, and the Trump administration deserves a lot of credit for getting this achieved.”

The U.S. should be cleared to export beef to China by mid-July. That’s also the deadline for the U.S. to finalize rules for the importation of cooked chicken products from China. Why cooked chicken instead of raw?

“For a country to be able to ship meat and poultry products into the U.S., they have to demonstrate that their food-safety inspection system is equivalent to the system here in the U.S.,” explains Brian Ronholm, who served as deputy undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Obama administration.

“The equivalency determination process for China as it relates to processed [cooked] chicken products had been underway, and this deal expedites this process,” he says. “China also is seeking equivalency for their inspection system for slaughter facilities, but that will be a longer process.”

Given the many outbreaks of avian flu China has experienced, there are also worries that if raw Chinese poultry were processed in the U.S., it could potentially contaminate American plants or somehow spread to birds here in the States.

Tony Corbo, a senior lobbyist for the food campaign at Food & Water Watch, an environmental advocacy group, has been raising concerns about efforts to open the U.S. market to Chinese chicken imports for years. He questions the Chinese government’s ability to enforce food-safety standards, given its poor track record.

That record includes rat meat being sold as lamb, oil recovered from drainage ditches in gutters being sold as cooking oil, and baby formula contaminated with melamine that sickened hundreds of thousands of babies and killed six. In 2014, a Shanghai food-processing factory that supplied international restaurant brands including McDonald’s and KFC was caught selling stale meat, repackaged with new expiration dates.

Corbo points out that last December, China’s own Food and Drug Administration reported it had uncovered as many as a half-million cases of food-safety violations just in the first three quarters of 2016.

That said, the USDA has gone to China to inspect plants that would process the chicken to be shipped to America. But Corbo finds little comfort in that. “You don’t know from moment to moment how China is enforcing food-safety standards,” Corbo says.

In recent months, a team from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has traveled to China to train Chinese officials in meat safety.

One thing Thursday’s trade deal did not address: U.S. poultry exports to China. The U.S. used to send a lot of chicken feet over to China, where they are a delicacy. But China banned U.S. chicken imports in 2015, after an outbreak of avian flu in the Midwest.

China “was a $750 million market just a few years ago, and now it’s essentially zero. It was one of our most important markets,” says Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

But Sumner isn’t worried about the new competition from Chinese chicken in the U.S. In fact, he welcomes it as an important step in reopening the Chinese market to U.S. poultry producers.

“Trade is a two-way street,” he says.

It’s not clear how soon after mid-July we can expect to see cooked chicken products from China in U.S. supermarkets. Sumner says he doesn’t expect the product to overwhelm store shelves, because the economics of raising chickens in China and then shipping them to America still favors U.S. producers.

Maria Godoy is a senior editor with NPR News and host of The Salt. She’s on Twitter: @mgodoyh

Illegal trade of parrots rampant in China

http://www.ecns.cn/cns-wire/2017/05-10/256844.shtml

 

2017-05-10

Scarlet macaws in an exposition park. (Photo/Beijing News)

Scarlet macaws in an exposition park. (Photo/Beijing News)

(ECNS) — The illegal trade of parrots is rampant in China, with the price of highly popular rare species exceeding 1,000 yuan ($145), Beijing News reports.

Chinese law only allows for the purchase of parrots by zoos or the exchange of the birds between breeding bases and forbids any other form of transaction, so it is illegal to sell parrots to customers, said an industry insider.

In 2009, the sun conure or sun parakeet was listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCU) as one of the most endangered species globally, being under second class state protection in China. China doesn’t allow artificial breeding of sun conures, not to mention trade of the bird on the market.

However, it is hugely popular among Chinese bird keepers.

Many Taobao vendors sell sun conures at a price of around 50 yuan, while the bird is usually sold for between 300 and 500 yuan on other e-commerce platforms and via online flea markets, the paper said.

In a market near Beijing’s 3rd Ring Road, a vendor suggested an underground trade of sun conures, because “the bird isn’t allowed to be traded here in the market”.

It usually took the vendor a week to source the bird, at a price of 2,000 yuan a pair. “Because transport costs are high and supervision has now been beefed up, prices will naturally be higher,” said the vendor.

Zou Chuangqi, general manager of a parrot-breeding company in South China’s Fujian Province said parrots for exhibition or appreciation need frequent disinfection by spraying liquid medicine on their beaks and noses to prevent bird flu.

Li Li, head of Beijing Heibao Wildlife Protection Station, said poor disinfection or epidemic protection could cause the spread of bird flu as cases are increasing.

 

The Chicken Economy

  • Written by  Steve Hinchliffe
  • Published in Opinions
The Chicken EconomyBukhanovskyy

24Apr
2017
2017 is the Chinese year of the chicken. This year, the best estimate suggests a record 94 million tonnes of chicken meat will be produced

That’s roughly 52 billion chickens. In the last 50 years, chicken has moved from being a rare food item, too perishable to mass market, to a staple of protein-rich (and low-fat) diets for a growing human population. But it’s not just the numbers that have altered. In the UK, supermarkets have led the field in changing the ways in which chickens are farmed and processed. Agricultural science and military-style logistics have converted a supplementary source of farm income into a highly organised, vertically-integrated industry.

Chickens are now reared under optimal conditions for economic profit and biological growth. High throughput of densely housed and specifically bred birds increase turnover (or the rate at which fully-grown chickens can be sold for meat). The result is a high-volume, low-margin industry, where the profit on each chicken is small but the real money is to be made in developing market share and volume.

Chickens now reach market at almost twice their previous slaughter weight. More astonishingly, improved housing, the use of enriched feeds and growth-promoting antibiotics mean they reach these new weights in half the time; less than 45 days to grow to market weight (sometimes only 38 days). An average poultry farm now houses several hundred thousand birds, arranged in sheds with 30,000 or so in each, all ‘growing’ in a tightly choreographed system to an established end, when they are ‘harvested’, transported and processed to reach supermarket shelves on time and at the correct price. Industry vets say the birds go through the process like ‘race-horses’.

This is an economic model (pile it high, sell it cheap while tuning biological processes to work as hard as possible at the lathe of production) that some say is symptomatic of our age. The journalist Felicity Lawrence suggests the chicken ‘is one of the defining commodities of our era… the sugar, tea and opium of the age.’ If Henry Ford and his motor cars defined the early 20th century, then the chicken and the often casual labour used to harvest and process its meat, Lawrence has suggested, defines our current times. These times can be characterised by global supply chains, precarious labour conditions, and biological stress.

platformAn average poultry farm now houses several hundred thousand birds, arranged in sheds with 30,000 or so in each (Image: Guitar photographer)

This year is also a year of seemingly unprecedented incidences of bird flu. By the middle of January there had been nearly 650 outbreaks of a deadly and virulent form in Europe, involving more than 200,000 cases. This European strain is currently thought not to be dangerous to people. But in China, another strain was, and has this year reached new levels of infection and mortality. The concern is that this may spread globally. By virtue of its ability to adapt, avian flu is known as a ‘potential pandemic pathogen’.

Standard explanations for the increased incidences of bird flu include failures in something called biosecurity. Disease experts often focus on the site of an outbreak. Those farms that allow poultry to mix with wild birds, or places such as live bird markets (particularly in parts of Asia where there is insufficient hygiene), are often blamed for disease spread. These may well be important points for contagion. Yet, there is another pressing question to ask: are the intensively raised, factory-farmed birds that make up the bulk of the 52 billion killed annually also part of the problem? When you add so many birds to the world’s biomass, all growing at rates and in conditions that change their immune responses, then it seems logical that you have changed the conditions for disease. Perhaps instead of sites, we need to focus on this global disease situation?

The evidence for this shift of attention is starting to emerge. First of all, it is important to say that all farms and forms of production involve plenty of opportunity for microbes, like the avian influenza virus, to circulate. Viruses can move with stock, pests, and with staff. The teams that often move from farm to farm to harvest poultry ‘crops’ may be a particular risk. Second, densely farmed birds may be more infectable. Immune systems are compromised at such growth rates, and once the virus is in a flock, it is clearly going to spread with impunity. Third, there is evidence that this avian biomass is altering the genetic make up of the viruses. In evolutionary terms, if you change a microbe’s environment, you are also going to provide the conditions for changing the microbe. Microbes evolve rapidly, and bird flu viruses are known to be particularly promiscuous, adapting quickly to hosts and so on. The raw material for the flu viruses has increased in number and availability as global production has expanded. The microbes are getting better at taking advantage.

Modernising agriculture is clearly of benefit to a world that needs to eat, and eat safely. And yet, we need to be wary of those tipping points at which the gains of modernisation start to backfire. As I write, the international restaurant chain Chipotle, which uses 64,000 tonnes of chicken meat annually, has announced that it is abandoning fast-growing chickens. Driven by food safety concerns and evidence that slower growth results in less disease, we may be seeing the start of a  crucial shift. The health costs of cheap meat may now be tipping the balance. Redressing that would make this year of the chicken one that could be good for all of us.

Avian flu restrictions at Cotswold Wildlife Park gave the birds another type of fever… the love bug!

 http://www.banburycake.co.uk/news/15241796.Avian_flu_restrictions_at_wildlife_park_gave_the_birds_another_type_of_fever___/

12 hrs ago / by Pete Hughes

LONG periods in close confinement can have strange effects on people, and, in the case of the birds at Cotswold Wildlife Park, the results were rather surprising.

Park keepers were forced to lock up hundreds of tropical and exotic birds in December under nationwide avian flu precautions issued by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

That meant Cotswold Wildlife Park, like farmers in Oxfordshire and across the county, had to keep all birds indoors until further notice.

When the restrictions were finally lifted this month park keepers started unlocking cages only to discover the long period in close quarters had seemingly created a romantic mood, and several species had begun breeding.

As a result the Bird Walkthrough at Cotswold’s Walled Garden, home to the scarlet ibis, Bali starlings and others will remain closed until further notice.

Curator Jamie Craig explained: “Following the news from Defra that avian influenza restrictions have now been lifted, the tropical house and lake area are once again open to visitors. We remain vigilant and are prepared to take action should the situation change.

“The Bird Walkthrough in the Walled Garden remains closed as several bird species started to breed during the time of the recent restrictions. As not to disturb the breeding birds at this delicate stage, the enclosure is currently closed but is fully visible to visitors.”

The avian flu restrictions came in after the disease was detected in more than 5,000 birds on a poultry farm near Louth in Lincolnshire.

It was the first confirmed case in Britain of the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain, which had already been circulating in countries across Europe, from Poland to France.

DEFRA announced on April 11 that all poultry was to be once again allowed out as of the 13th

UK chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said that while the H5N8 strain of bird flu which caused more than 1,000 outbreaks across Europe over winter may remain in the environment, the danger of cross-contamination had subsided.

A ban on gatherings of poultry, such as pure breed showings, remains in place until further notice.

It’s especially good timing for Cotswold Wildlife Park as the the new came just in time to celebrate World Penguin Day