Nearly 23 million birds have died as bird flu wipes out farms in 29 states

The incidence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) – which includes the H5N1 avian influenza virus – is approaching a record high set by the last outbreak in 2015, when more than 50 million birds died. As of April 22, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly 31 million “poultry” birds (those exploited for food in animal agriculture) in 29 states have been affected by the outbreak while 762 wild birds, including bald eagles, in 33 states have contracted the virus. This outbreak is the first time H5N1 viruses have been recorded in the United States since 2016.

The virus was first detected in wild birds in the Carolinas in January and spread to a turkey farm in Indiana as the wild birds migrated north. As of April 7, 2022, nearly 23 million birds have died as a result of the outbreak, the majority of which have been culled (a euphemism for “killed”) to prevent the spread of the zoonotic disease. Currently, the virus has not been detected in humans and the CDC says human infection with bird flu is rare but not impossible.

“The HPAI outbreak is an urgent reminder to all poultry farmers to ensure their biosecurity measures are in place,” Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. “Every effort must be made to protect the health of the animals in our care in order to maintain the strength of America’s food supply.”

Millions of birds killed to stop the spread of bird flu

Methods of “depopulation” of birds living on commercial poultry farms in the United States have come under fire after animal rights group Animal Outlook (AO) published a briefing on methods of shutting down ventilation ( VSD and VSD+), which are commonly used to kill an animal. large numbers of animals at a time, especially where disease spread is involved.

AO’s talk was created from footage obtained through requests for public recording of experiments funded by the US Poultry and Egg Association trade association and conducted by North Carolina State University. In the images, birds are placed in transparent boxes as researchers use various combinations of stopping airflow, pumping carbon dioxide and increasing heat to test different methods of killing birds. birds. During the experiment, birds struggle against the boxes as they struggle to breathe, trying to escape before collapsing and dying. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) “depopulation” guidelines later cited these experiences when approving methods of mass destruction.

In the current avian flu outbreak, many commercial farms have used these methods to kill birds, including a facility operated by Tyson in Stoddard, MO, which used VSD to kill 300,000 birds. During COVID-19, these methods were used to kill pigs that could not be shipped for slaughter.

“The poultry industry knew full well that slow cooking to death and suffocating birds was cruel,” Cheryl Leahy, executive director of Animal Outlook, said in a statement. “Yet they have funded university researchers to optimize this method of mass culling so that large egg facilities can cost-effectively kill entire flocks on a routine basis. The research paved the way for AVMA approval of VSD. We can now see this widespread inherent cruelty for what it really is, hold it to account under the law, and withdraw our support for this industry by refusing to buy animal products.

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Alternatives to Chicken That Prevent Disease

Scientists have been warning for decades that industrial animal agriculture – where animals are tightly packed in filthy conditions – is about to become ground zero for the next pandemic. At the start of COVID-19, Humane Society International (HSI) released a white paper as a warning.

“Since news broke that COVID-19 likely originated from a live animal market where stressed animals are crammed into cages, in unsanitary conditions, we have begun to examine what other humane exploitation of animals might create. a similar petri dish of disease,” Julie Janovsky, HSI vice president of farm animal campaigns, said at the time. “It’s clear from looking at the data that the unprecedented increase and expansion of intensive animal husbandry, primarily on factory farms, in which we raise and slaughter more than 80 billion animals globally each year, is clearly a trailblazer.The message is simple: if we are to stop future pandemics, we must meaningfully abandon the meat habit, and world leaders must actively help shift global diets towards more plant-based eating.

The boom in the chicken and egg alternative industry could not have been better timed. On store shelves and restaurant menus, plant-based alternatives to chicken are springing up every day and industry leaders such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, both of which have launched retail products from vegan chicken last year, are joined by new entrants such as Skinny Butcher, Nowadays, TiNDLE and LikeMeat.

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In the egg alternatives category, Eat Just has been a leader since the release of its JUST Egg, an alternative made from mung beans. To date, JUST Egg has sold the vegan equivalent of over 250 million chicken eggs. Other players in this space include Zero Egg, a vegan egg substitute made with a proprietary blend of plant proteins that recently expanded to breakfast menus on college campuses, including Yale.

And cellular agriculture companies are tackling this crisis with a different approach. This month, California-based UPSIDE Foods raised $400 million in a historic Series C round to fund its mission to make pet food obsolete. Currently, the only country in the world to approve the sale of cultured meat (or real meat made from a small amount of animal cells in a lab) is Singapore, but others are expected to follow soon.

With its historic investment round – which has seen the participation of traditional chicken industry giants Cargill and Tyson Foods – UPSIDE aims to commercialize its cultured chicken, offering a vast opportunity to permanently eliminate the recurrence of avian flu in breeding.

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“UPSIDE has reached a historic inflection point, moving from research and development to commercialization,” UPSIDE Founder and CEO Uma Valetti said in a statement. “Our team at UPSIDE continues to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges in our mission to make our favorite food a force for good. Working in partnership with our coalition of world-class investors, we are thrilled to deliver delicious meat , sustainable and cruelty-free to consumers around the world.

For more on chicken alternatives, read:
Panda Express launches its first vegan orange chicken with Beyond Meat
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Vegan Chicken Brands
22 Vegan Fried Chicken Sandwiches That Are Better Than Chick-fil-A

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