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Government ignored 2007 warning: PETA

As Assam grapples with bird flu, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has accused the government of ignoring a one-year old warning of a possible virus attack, reports Rahul Karmakar.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2008 18:39 IST
Rahul/HT Correspondent

As Assam grapples with bird flu, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has accused the government of ignoring a one-year old warning of a possible virus attack.

According to PETA functionary Nikunj Sharma, the animal rights body had in June last year warned the Assam government about the deadly link between factory-farm filth and avian influenza. "We had even provided video footage of unhygienic poultry trade, advising the government to be on guard, as the virus had been causing havoc in the vicinity," he said here on Friday.

Assam veterinary officials reacted to the warning as late as January this year, blaming the delay on a communication failure. In a reply to the PETA caution, additional veterinary director P Daimary claimed the government-run farms were conforming to hygiene and animal protection laws.

Since November 24 last, bird flu has struck six districts of Assam with the epicenters rising to 12. Some 5.11 lakh fowls have been culled and 143 people checked for upper respirator infection. Though none of them tested for avian flu, some 17 lakh people living within 3 km of the outbreak zones are being monitored and checked for possible contrition of the virus.

The PETA warning was issued around the time Manipur suffered the bird flu outbreak. Similar outbreaks were reported from Myanmar and Bangladesh around the same time. "It's not really that hard to keep the H5N1 strain of bird flu at bay. It's just a question of cleanliness and scientific slaughtering," a local PETA activist said.

PETA blamed unscrupulous poultry traders for wastage of public money with several cores going into bird flu-induced compensation. Union Health ministry records reveal India paid more than $19, 47,619 as compensation for poultry and feed in 2006 and $2, 23,810 for birds culled in 2007.