BIRDFLU (AVIAN INFLUENZA)
Various points of view in The Netherlands
NHDB (Dutch Poultry Union)
- No necessity to vaccinate hobby-poultry against A.I.
- See: http://www.nhdb.nl/ 25 januari 2006:
Deskundigengroep Pluimvee bevestigt NHDB-standpunt over AI-vaccinatie
N.P.S. ( Dutch Poultry Association)
- Website www.nederlandsepluimveesoc.nl
- Bird Influenza - the truth
In the media we can notice a constant flow of reports with incorrect statements about the avian influenza (or birdflu). These faulty reports are used by others where under ministers !
It is a scientifically proven fact that the bird influenza is not transmitted by migratory birds in the wild. It is transmitted by means of transportation such as animal transports (the virus has a drivers license !). An avian influenza infection ends up quickly if it is spread in a small concentration of farm animals. But in the stables of the bio-industry with thousands of farm animals who have a very low disease resistance the same infection leads very rapidly to a catastrophe.
H5N1 cannot mutate into a virus dangerous for people as the composition of the H5 virus is not suitable for this purpose. It does not need any mutation to cause a dangerous virus for humans. For example if pigs infected with a normal influenza virus get infected by the aviary influenza a new mutated virus dangerous to humans could be produced. This can cause a pandemy if humans get infected with it. Pigs can only get infected with the H5N1 virus when these animals have contact with infected poultry kept in a bio-industrial facility.
A campaign from the Dutch animal welfare activist group “Wakker Dier”, whatever you think of them points out the risks caused by the so called "virus factories" (the bio-industry). Their slogan : less consumption of animal meat means less commercial farm animals and therefore less risk.
The non-vaccination policy is only a commercial instrument used by governments to avoid international trade conflicts. The bio-industry and research institutes are protecting their commercial interests and try to scare the people with a possible threat of a worldwide pandemy. Governmental obligatory regulations such as keeping animals completely indoors or under a roofed housing are not necessary at all. They only cause a lot of distress for the animals.
Excluding every possible risk is only possible if tens of millions of farm animals are vaccinated !
The Dutch Poultry Society,
Ing. J. Ringnalda.
Article by Willem van Ballekom (Secretary of the Asian Gamefowl Society)
- Club website http://agsglobal.tripod.com/main/index.htm
- Reaction to the Non-vaccination policy of the N.H.D.B.
Dear NHDB committee,
The content of your express message regarding the birdflu vaccination policy really shocked me. Yes of course do all hobby breeders understand that their poultry flocks don’t form a real threat in spreading the birdflu virus. But I really think that you forgot to include other factors which I think are of major importance to our hobby. It has become a common policy of most national poultry organizations within Europe to forbid breeders from abroad exhibiting their birds at their domestic shows and or the transportation of foreign birds. This makes it also impossible to attend special breed club meetings in other EU countries. So there is no exchange of breeding stock and bird reviews possible!
I am very curious about how the Entente committee will solve this problem concerning the upcoming European Show in Leipzig. Or do you have any stunning solutions in mind because at this moment with the present-day non-vaccination birdflu policy it is gonna be a show for pigeons and rodents only! If we talk about what measures to take I can point you in the direction of a very interesting initiative. Shortly the Thai government has allowed cockfighting bouts again. I don’t want to discuss cockfighting in this article, but about the measures taken to combat spreading of the virus. Every bird entered for a cockfighting competition should be identified with a registration mark, a passport with a photo of the animal and a veterinary declaration stating the bird is healthy. I think this idea is worthwhile to brainstorm about. So get your heads together with the Entente committee and get something done about this ridiculous non-vaccination situation. If you don’t take any steps now our hobby will be destroyed totally in the next years future!
What is the purpose of that so called Entente Europienne anyway if breeding and showing poultry is only limited to domestic organized shows! Getting all breeds standardized within Europe will be pointless too. For the sake of what??? The Entente should strongly oppose this non-vaccination policy and start lobbying at the agriculture departments of their national governments and in the HQ of the EU in Bruxelles. What was that slogan again? Vive L' Europe I think it was.
Willem van Ballekom.
Article by Dirk Zoebl
NEGLECTED RISKS IN THE SPREAD OF AVIAN INFLUENZA: THE BREED AND HUSBANDRY OF POULTRY
In the reporting on avian influenza in newspapers, professional and scientific journals on the spread and risks of avian influenza, I miss a consideration which might well be of crucial importance. It concerns the breed or type of the affected poultry, and, strongly related with that, the type of husbandry. Already Darwin reported on the special characteristics of free roaming domestic animals and birds, kept by, what he called at the time, the savages in the exotic areas. These birds have to struggle for their own subsistence, so he maintained, and would be exposed to a certain extent to natural selection. How different is the situation at present in the bio-industry, where, since the 1940s, commercial poultry breeders stopped breeding on selection for resistance against infectious diseases, because vaccines and antibiotics became available. From now on, breeding became a maniacal hunt for performance in egg and meat production, at the expense of other, uptil then, useful or esthetic characteristics. It is long since known that old breeds are more robust and resistant to certain diseases (such as gumboro and infectious laringotracheitis) than modern hybrids. Recent parasitological research by the Dutch Erasmus University, carried out on broilers of different types and breeds, established that old Dutch breeds bred for outside conditions, such as the North Holland Blue and Barnevelder, (in the Netherlands, rains and wind prevail) had a better resistance (innate and adaptive) against viral and bacillairy infections than the modern brands from the bio-industry. As long as factory birds are kept and fed in strictly isolated barns or battery cages and are raised with balanced feeds, antibiotics and vaccines they generally perform well. Problems arise where these ‘incubator’ birds are kept outside during part of the day in pens or other free range conditions. This started to be practiced commercially in England and continental Europe since the early 1980’s influenced by concerns on animal welfare. Also, a considerable amount of hobby-breeders and rural folk never had stopped the old habit to keep chickens outside. These hens were either of the old, robust brands such as the Barnevelder or Welsumer (often the small, bantam types), or commercial hybrids bought in small numbers from dealers, or crosses from these types. In the Netherlands, about five of the 25 million bio-industrial layers are kept under outside conditions, by a few hundreds of commercial raisers. These birds have not at all been bred for outside conditions. They are bred and crossed from so-called lines which are only slightly more robust than the types kept in well sealed battery cage conditions Apart of that, over 100.0000 hobby-breeders keep a dozen or so of poultry of all kind of feather, for pleasure, but also for the eggs and meat. Such is the situation in a high income European country, such as the Netherlands. But how is this in the rest of the world? And what does it mean for the spread and development of avian flu?
Breeds and husbandry aspects
After 75 years without avian influenza, the Netherlands had to cope with an outbreak again in 2003. The virus strain that caused it was of the H7N7-combination.The strain most likely had originated from free living ducks and had evolved into a highly pathogenic variant AFTER introduction in commercial poultry farms. There might have been as well contamination by transport of infectious material (the N7 part of the combination) from commercial turkey farms in Northern Italy. Millions of birds were killed in the ensuing stamping out program. Not only commercial birds, also the birds of hobby-breeders were killed. However, not one single bird of those free roaming birds of hobby-breeders was reported dead by the pest, all were killed preventively. Were these birds maybe more robust or resistant, due to their stress-free keeping conditions or the nature of their robust breed? Or is the avian flu so rampant and infectious that hybrids and old breeds alike succumb at once after infection? Is a general health without acute stress of birds, kept the proper, old fashioned way, maybe of influence on the specific resistance to flu? It probably will remain a subject for professional speculation, controversy and political mud slinging, for some time to go.
In that same year the avian flu emerged in the bio-industry of South Korea, this time the strain appeared to be of the H5N1 type. This type, first noted in 1997 in Hongkong, was eradicated in a very strict eradication program, but seemed to have gone underground in South East Asia, to turn up later in Korea. Since then, it has been ravaging in SE Asia, generally in the poor villages, in free roaming local breeds in Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam. In July 2005 it turned up suddenly in a mountain lake of uninhabited Central China, where thousands of wild geese, ducks and other water fowl were found dead due to virulent strains of H5N1. From China and Mongolia, it then spread following the Transsiberia Express to the Ural. In the same period, dead birds of wild waterfowl and backyard chickens were reported in Eastern European countries and in Turkey. The casualties among birds and people, however, are rather mild: less than 100 people dead globally after 3 years of virulence and only local outbreaks among poultry in villages and remote areas. Miraculously, the bio-industries in Russia, Turkey and Eastern Europe as yet are not affected. But the authorities and politicians in Western and Central Europe are very aware of , and have taken already some measures to cope with, the risks of a further spread. And right they are, because an attack could affect the hundreds of millions of birds of the commercial poultry keepers, and also the millions of people who keep birds for sport or pleasure in their backyards.
Surely, globalization not only is an economic and social issue, but a natural and ecological as well. Modern, industrial poultry production and breeding started in the Western world halfway the 20th century. Since a few decades, modern brands and husbandry systems of poultry raising are now common all over the world. But large differences still exist in the ways of keeping poultry and in the brands and hybrids in the poorer countries. It is especially this mix of breeds and husbandries that raises concern. Modern hybrids, with their lack of resistance and robustness, are increasingly kept in small amounts under backyard conditions in the villages, the suburbs and slums, and even the inner cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America. With proper care, medical treatments and balanced feed, they perform much better than the local brands. But these modern hybrids have their disadvantages, too. They cannot be raised from own stock, but have to be bought expensively as day-old chicks from middlemen. Besides, the balanced feeds and medical treatments also have to be purchased. If not properly housed and protected, they will be caught by predators or succumb to diseases much earlier than the local breeds. Therefore, not everybody, especially not the poor and needy, can afford keeping these hybrids. More often than not, these hybrids are kept together with, or in close contact to, the local robust brands. They scavenge together with ducks, turkeys, geese, pigs, and roam around in swampy or marginal land where other wildlife and fowl prevails. Children play with their pet birds and animals, and not only with live birds: also with the heads and the feet of slaughtered birds. What are the global consequences of this mix of bird types and behaviour of their keepers for the spread of avian flu?
The current threat of a new fowl pest from the poor East to the rich West is not easy to tackle. The efforts and political actions to deal with it are sometimes downright hilarious. Politician Zjirinofski edicted the ukase to kill all migratory birds from Turkey to Russia at the border. The minister of health of Turkey came with the idea to eradicate all backyard poultry raising and to turn for 100% to modern bio-industry (and this after an old Turkish backyard keeper told a journalist that, if he had to choose between his wife and his chickens, he would prefer to get rid of his wife). But even respected organizations like the FAO and the WHO come with foolish, unpractical measures. They think about helping local stamping out programs with extra money and manpower. How do they think to act, even with one or two billion dollar programs, in persuading millions of scattered villagers with each ten or twenty hens only, to get rid of their highly priced fowl? In countries where mistrust of, rather than cooperation with, officials is the rule? And where, besides, corruption is the rule rather than the exception?
I am not an epidemiologist, and not even a veterinary, but still, I have some good advice to the specialists and politicians involved. A Dutch saying goes: do not mop without closing the tap. Indeed, I think mopping without thinking about the tap is a useless drain of money and resources. So, my advise would be:
1) Find out by laboratory trials or checks whether local brands or breeds have any advantage in resistance or robustness to attacks of avian influenza, and , if so, under what kind of husbandry conditions
2) In case of a local outbreak, make a distinction in breeds or types of the affected fowl: local, hardy breeds, hybrids, or crosses? What is the local or regional composition or percentage of local breeds and hybrids? And how is the situation in the direct surroundings? Irrespective of whether laboratory trials on differences in resistance have been done, this distinction might be useful. Pathogen surveillance not only should differentiate between wild and domestic birds, but also between local breeds and hybrids.
3) By including such knowledge and criteria, the monitoring, early detection, responses and the effectiveness of measures to mitigate or control the pest could gain: at least, so I hope.
About the author:
Dirk Zoebl is agronomist, raised at Wageningen University in tropical crop husbandry. He has no education or professional experience in animal husbandry, veterinary science or epidemiology. Yet, he has kept poultry for about 20 years of his life: some 10 years as a boy in Holland, and 10 years during his professional life in Latin America and Kenya. He always had a keen interest in the poultry development projects in these countries and in the backyard keeping of small animals and birds. Back in the Netherlands, he followed with increasing uneasiness the reporting and news on bio-industry, development efforts in the overseas backyard husbandry systems and the measures to contain animal pests and diseases, locally and worldwide. He agrees with his countryman professor in ecology van Noordwijk, that animal pests, and control measures to contain them, are too serious a matter to be left to professionals and economists. He also is an editor with the journal “Zeldzaam Huisdier”, a periodical from the Dutch Rare Breed Survival Trust.
His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org