Table of Contents:



I. Storm Gathering

1. 1918

2. Master of Metamorphosis

3. H5N1

4. Playing Chicken

5. Worse Than 1918?

6. When, Not If

II. When Animal Viruses Attack

1. The Third Age

2. Man Made

3. Livestock Revolution

4. Tracing the Flight Path

5. One Flu Over the Chicken's Nest

6. Coming Home to Roost

7. Guarding the Henhouse

III. Pandemic Preparedness

1. Cooping Up Bird Flu

2. Race Against Time

3. Tamiflu

IV. Surviving the Pandemic

1. Don't Wing It

2. Our Health in Our Hands

3. Be Prepared

V. Preventing Future Pandemics

1. Tinderbox

2. Reining in the Pale Horse


References 1-3,199

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—University of Ottawa virologist Earl Brown1664
Intensive confinement of chickens

Given the existence of diseases like bird flu with potentially disastrous human health consequences, the propensity of large-scale poultry production to generate disease—the so-called “industrial ecology created by intensive confinement”—has, as an academic technology journal describes, “ramifications far beyond the chicken house.”1665 In the end, chickens may not be the only ones to fall sick.

Modern corporate chicken sheds cluster tens or hundreds of thousands of chickens into what are essentially giant slums.1666 These animals spend their entire short lives eating, sleeping, and defecating in the same cramped quarters, breathing in particles of their neighbors’ waste and the stinging ammonia of decomposing feces. Their first breath of fresh air is on the truck to the slaughter plant. In this kind of environment, mass disease outbreaks may be inevitable.1667

“The primary driver has been economics—short-term gain,” says the director of the Toronto General Hospital’s Centre for Travel and Tropical Medicine. “We bring tens of thousands of animals together, crush them into these abnormal environments, poke them full of whatever and make them fatter for sale. Any microbe that enters that population is going to be disseminated to thousands of animals….”1668 Intensive poultry production diminishes the cost to the individual consumer, but may present an intolerable cost to humanity at large.

A number of prominent journalists worldwide have arrived at this idea of factory farms as potential pandemic hatcheries. Theresa Manavalan, a leading Malaysian journalist, asks us to “make no mistake, the pig is not the villain, neither is the chicken. It’s actually us. And our horrible farm practices…. What we may have done,” she warns, “is unwittingly create the perfect launch pad for an influenza pandemic that will likely kill large numbers of people across the globe.”1669 Deborah Mackenzie, from the New Scientist Brussels office, writes, “For years we have forced countless chickens to live short, miserable lives in huge, crammed hen houses in the name of intensive agriculture. In 2004, they started to wreak their revenge.”1670

The WHO, OIE, and FAO, respectively the world’s leading medical, veterinary, and agricultural authorities, all implicate industrial poultry production as playing a role in the current crisis. The World Health Organization blames the increasing trend of emerging infectious diseases in part on the “industrialization of the animal production sector”1771 in general, and the emergence of H5N1 on “intensive poultry production” in particular.1772 The OIE, the World Organization for Animal Health, blames in part the shorter production cycles and greater animal densities of modern poultry production, which result in a “greater number of susceptible animals reared per given unit of time.”1773 Said one senior Food and Agriculture Organization official, “[I]ntensive industrial farming of livestock is now an opportunity for emerging diseases.”1774

Other experts around the world similarly lay blame at least in part on “so-called factory farming,”1675 “intensive poultry production,”1676 “large industry poultry flocks,”1677 “intensive agricultural production systems,”1678 or “intensive confinement.”1679 “We are wasting valuable time pointing fingers at wild birds,” the FAO has stated, “when we should be focusing on dealing with the root causes of this epidemic spread which…[include] farming methods which crowd huge numbers of animals into small spaces.”1680

In October 2005, the United Nations issued a press release on bird flu specifically calling on governments to fight what they call “factory farming”: “Governments, local authorities and international agencies need to take a greatly increased role in combating the role of factory-farming, commerce in live poultry, and wildlife markets which provide ideal conditions for the virus to spread and mutate into a more dangerous form….”1681

Emeritus professor Kennedy Shortridge was awarded the highly prestigious Prince Mahidol Award in Public Health, considered the “Nobel Prize of Asia,”1682 for his pioneering work on H5N1.1683 From 1977 to 2002, he advised the World Health Organization on the ecology of influenza viruses.1684 Shortridge describes how modern poultry operations have created the greatest risk scenario in history. “The industrialization is the nub of the problem,” he said. “We have unnaturally brought to our doorstep pandemic-capable viruses. We have given them the opportunity to infect and destroy huge numbers of birds and…jump into the human race.”1685 The director of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine agrees. “The global poultry industry is clearly linked to avian influenza [H5N1],” he said. “It would not have happened without it.”1686