The USA Government and industry groups seek ways to expedite depopulation of flocks affected by avian influenza when other options are exhausted.This would be against all International Animal Welfare standards, to kill poultry without prior stunning, by shutting down all ventilation and putting heaters to raise the temperature to a level that poultry would be killed by heat stress and lack of oxygen. Animal welfare specialists in disease control strongly oppose against the introduction of the most cruel method of killing poultry that lost their economic value and need to be culled, as if there would not be alternative methods available, like the Anoxia method. The ban of Ventilation shutdown method should therefore be maintained and the Anoxia method should b further developed so that is suitable for applying to caged layers and turkeys. In Germany, such system is currently under development and will be commercially available this Autumn.

The poultry industry in the USA is not aware of this development and pledges for the formal approval of the Ventilation Shutdown method as a form of emergency depopulation of flocks that have been affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza. Speaking August 19 during the United Egg Producers (UEP) national briefing webinar, UEP President Chad Gregory explained that much research is being done concerning the feasibility of such a depopulation program.

“The government, the producers, the states and UEP, we all recognize that depopulation is going to have to happen faster and ideally within 24 hours,” said Gregory. Quick depopulation of affected flocks is important, Gregory said, because the sooner a flock is depopulated, the risk of the virus going into fans and out into the atmosphere becomes smaller. Gregory said ventilation shutdown – if approved – would probably only be used in a worst-case scenario or when all other euthanasia options have been exhausted.

UEP’s animal welfare scientific committee, the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP), and other organizations have visited with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) about the issue, but Gregory said much research still needs to be done, taking into account factors such as temperatures, if any supplemental gas should be used, and how long it would take for the birds to die.

“These things all need to be researched and researched fast so that if [avian influenza] does come in the next couple of months, we can actually employ the emergency depopulation method by ventilation shutdown if it is the option that’s chosen with the government,” said Gregory. “A lot more needs to be done.”

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