A Bird Flu Depopulation Method So Cruel, Veterinarians Yell Foul

More than 77 million poultry birds have been killed in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America to contain the spread of bird flu, a pandemic that few are even aware of thanks to light news coverage. There are few photos of dumpsters and landfills brimming with dead birds nor is there mention of how the mass killing is often done. It is accomplished with “ventilation shutdown” (VSD) and “ventilation shutdown plus heat” (VSD+) in which steam heat and CO2 are added to the oxygen deprivation/suffocation to facilitate heatstroke.

Now veterinarians and the public are calling on the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to formally oppose VSD and VSD+ as a method of mass-exterminating chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other farmed animals to control bird flu. The shocking mass-kill method was also used to kill an estimated 10 million U.S. pigs in 2020 when pork operators could not send them to Covid-closed slaughterhouses observes veterinarian Daniela Castillo.

As the AVMA prepares for its annual meeting in Philadelphia, an “Our Honor,” campaign has launched to highlight the use of wide scale killing of birds through suffocation and heatstroke and how it contradicts the veterinarian oath to prevent and relieve of animal suffering.

Signed by veterinarians and AVMA members, the campaign states, “we are concerned that our reputation as caring advocates for animals is tarnished each time our profession is used to lend legitimacy to this brutal practice.” Killing healthy animals in this horrific way is unnecessary, says the campaign letter, “yet the corporation[s] could still cite the AVMA guidelines as their protocol for such a barbaric act.”

The suffering that VSD inflicts was witnessed in videos of experiments conducted by North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers and viewed by the Intercept and Animal Outlook. “As the boxes get hotter and the air inside more stagnant, and as carbon dioxide is sometimes added, the chickens writhe, gasp, pant, stagger and even throw themselves against the walls of their confinement in a desperate attempt to escape,” wrote Animal Outlook. “Eventually the birds collapse and, finally, die from heat and suffocation.”

A VSD occurrence at Rembrandt Farms in Rembrandt, Iowa is particularly troubling says Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) who did the onsite investigation. “Owned by billionaire Glen Taylor, Rembrandt Farms was affected by avian influenza 7 years ago and received $11.3 million in taxpayer subsidies for depopulating their flock of 5.5 million birds. Positioned on the Mississippi flyway, with millions of migrating birds flying overhead, another avian influenza outbreak was to be expected yet the farm failed to change their housing structure or put a plan [for depopulation] in place” that was less cruel “before repopulating their facility.”

The website Tasting Table notes the Rembrandt Farms owned by Glen Taylor, the majority owner of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, has contracted avian flu three times and is responsible for five million of the ten million chicken deaths in Iowa since the most recent bird flu outbreak.

Increasingly, veterinarians, animal advocates and concerned citizens are saying the AVMA’s refusal to formally condemn ventilation shutdown and ventilation shutdown plus heat is a clear instance of the association putting corporations and economic interests over animals and a violation of the Veterinarian’s Oath itself. United Poultry Concerns, a coalition member of Our Honor, says the AVMA “should now step up for the animals instead of pandering repeatedly to their abusers.”

Some also suggest that news media slight coverage of the bird flu pandemic and massive bird kills is a nod to their “Big Food” advertisers; who wants to eat chicken during such a massive disease outbreak or see the dead bodies in landfills and wanton suffering? Scientists and public health officials also indict the Big Food’s million bird, industrial greed-sized operations for spreading bird flu in the first place!

Add you name to the “Our Honor,” campaign here.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).