Mild forms of avian influenza are relatively common, but its mutation into a virulent strain such as H5N1 is cause for a strong scientific and humane international response. To date, almost 200 people have been infected, and over half have died. Nearly a quarter of a billion birds have been killed.
Migrating birds are often blamed for the spread of the H5N1, but another theory is that the disease occurs and travels along corridors used by industrialized poultry producers. The non-governmental organization GRAIN notes that the virus follows man-made roads, not wild bird flyways. Global shipments of hatching eggs and poultry feed (which contains bird feces, a high-risk source of H5N1 contamination) are identified as possible conduits. The World Watch Institute also recognizes the role played by industrialized systems, stating that, "Crowded, inhumane and unhygienic conditions on factory farms can sicken farm animals and create the perfect environment for the spread of diseases, including avian flu."
By now, H5N1 has surfaced in more than 30 countries, and the majority of birds destroyed as a result have come from animal factories. In addition to reforming the factory production of farm animals, there is a desperate need to end inhumane handling and killing methods. To learn more, please visit www.grain.org.