Avian flu: we filmed 300,000 chickens stacked and killed with gas

abbattimento aviaria
© Essere Animali


Avian flu: we filmed 300,000 chickens stacked and killed with gas

Simone Montuschi

Our new investigation documents culling operations on a farm where cases of avian flu were detected. A terrible death was inflicted on animals that have been put in danger of infection.

Since October last year, over 300 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian flu (subtypes H5 and H5N1) have been recorded in domestic poultry, and several other cases have been found among wild animals in Italy. So far it is estimated that the number of animals slaughtered due to avian flu in Italy exceeds 15 million. The most affected region by far is the Veneto, where there is the largest number of poultry farms and animals. And it’s here that we carried out our investigation.

Watch the video

Using a drone, we  filmed the killing of thousands of chickens on a farm affected by avian flu, where the slaughter of 300,000 animals was in progress. The farm is located in the province of Vicenza. As the video shows, the chickens are unloaded into containers at least two metres high, which are densely packed with animals. Inevitably, the chickens in the bottom layer are crushed by the weight of the chickens above. It takes about 30 minutes for the loading, covering, and gassing to be completed. The death of these animals is surely preceded by long minutes of fear and stress.

Reflection on our food system is needed

We are disseminating these images because we believe it is necessary to reflect on our food system, which is based on excessive consumption and production of meat, made possible only by raising animals intensively. These farms are hotbeds for viruses, and as long as animals are raised by the thousands in confined spaces, avian flu outbreaks will continue to recur regularly with devastating effects.

We are ignoring the cruelties inflicted on these animals and underestimating the potential risk to public health. Several experts have talked about the possibility that the virus could mutate and develop the ability to transmit among the human population.

allevamento verona
99.8% of Italian chickens are raised on intensive farms.
© Essere Animali

Avian flu: The role of intensive farming

Previous avian flu epidemics that have hit European farms, including Italian ones, demonstrate that it is not possible to limit an outbreak inside factory farms. It is precisely the conditions in which the animals live that cause viruses to spread rapidly and, if highly lethal like avian, kill most of these animals.

In addition to crowding — the average capacity of an intensive poultry farm in Italy is over 21,000 animals per complex — genetic factors also play a significant role: in farms, animals are selected to grow very quickly and produce enormous muscle mass, which in itself can cause physical problems. Moreover, they usually are genetically very similar to each other, so a virus can act undisturbed without encountering genetic variants that prevent its spread. To prevent epidemics from spreading, we need to review our food system based on the consumption of animal products.

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