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Fowl cull: Animal activists cry foul

Cruel methods can worsen the risks for humans, activists tell Navneeta.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 19:55 IST

Animal activists in India are furious as health workers are carrying out massive slaughter of chickens to prevent the spread of H5N1 bird flu virus.

After the outbreak was confirmed last week, Government workers scrambled to complete the culling of birds in infected regions.

But activists warn that the actions are 'cruel and chaotic', they break official regulations and could be worsening the risk of humans catching the disease.

Chickens are being culled by wringing their necks or mixing chemicals in their feed. And in some cases, birds are being dumped in pits along with lime and pesticides and covered up by heavy earthmovers.

      Cruel dumping

This very culling process has witnessed resentment from animal activists like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

"Culling of birds is not the solution," says Jayasimha, a senior coordinator with the PETA.

"It's an act of cruelty and if at all animals need to be culled in the wake of bird flu, it has to be done humanely," he says.

More than 700,000 fowls have been killed and over 200,000 eggs destroyed in several parts of the country since tests of some of 30,000 chickens that died in Maharashtra's Navapur district in the recent weeks detected the virus.

Helped by villagers, health officials have descended on major farms and in front of tearful owners walked along the rows of cages, pulling the birds out and stuffing them into the sacks.

P Hakeem, an official with the federal Department of Animal Husbandry, says that about 80,000 more birds would be slaughtered.

Experts suggest that ideally the chickens should have been gassed to death inside a carbon monoxide chamber.

But officials admit that no such facilities exist in remote villages.

"Killing the live birds by burying is not going to solve the problem as there is a possibility of the birds getting consumed by stray dogs and jackals, leading to a bigger outbreak," warns Jayasimha.

Jayasimha adds, "The animals are suffering because there are no fixed policies to deal with this. Government has no heart for animals. As a result, they tend to ignore the Bureau of Indian Standard guidelines for the husbandry industry."

The Word Health Organisation's (WHO) standards on the issue demand that culling methods must result in 'immediate unconsciousness' without resulting in distress or pain for the animals.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 00:00 IST