When a vandal shut off the ventilation at a Pilgrim’s Pride mega farm earlier this year, essentially baking the chickens alive, the poultry giant offered a $50,000 reward, lamenting that “these heinous acts resulted in a cruel death for several thousand chickens.” Yet strangely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now recommending the same cruel fate for millions more birds impacted by the bird flu outbreak in Iowa and elsewhere.
Confined wing-to-wing in these cages, each animal is given less space than an iPad on which to live for her entire life. Photo credit: Shutterstock
USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford recently proposed, before a congressional committee, ending the lives of infected flocks by simply closing off the ventilation and “heating up the houses.”
Such an inhumane end would be adding insult to injury—or really, injury to injury; many egg-laying hens already are locked in cages so small they can’t even spread their wings. Confined wing-to-wing in these cages, each animal is given less space than an iPad on which to live for her entire life. It’s hard to imagine a more miserable life and now the USDA is suggesting we make their deaths more heinous, too.
The American Veterinary Medical Association doesn’t consider ventilation shutdown an acceptable method of euthanasia. Nor does the gruesome method meet the World Animal Health Organization’s guidelines. In fact, even the USDA says ventilation shutdown presents “compelling welfare concerns,” including “concerns that prolonged suffering may occur.”
USDA says heat stress can be used to kill poultry in bird flu outbreak http://t.co/ke9naXzCiY http://t.co/2YfMOOmmkc— The Gazette (@The Gazette)1442625848.0
That’s because it can take as long as 35 minutes to result in mass death and some animals may survive more than three hours. During that time, the hens experience intense and protracted suffering, as blood pressure plummets and fatal organ failure sets in.
In addition to the fact that less inhumane methods of mass “depopulation” already exist, overheating birds to death probably violates state anti-cruelty laws. It’s routine for people to be charged with cruelty for leaving dogs in hot cars, for example. Though some states excuse inhumane treatment of farm animals if it’s deemed a standard farming practice, cooking conscious birds to death has never been standard. That means this needless cruelty likely would merit criminal animal cruelty charges.
USDA found itself in hot water earlier this year when the New York Times revealed, in a front-page exposé, ghastly experiments the agency conducted on behalf of the meat industry, at its U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska. Still on the heels of that controversy, the USDA would be wise to demonstrate a commitment to improving animal welfare, not further undermining it.
USDA adds suffocation to bird flu euthanasia methods http://t.co/Cjn5fo2VkZ http://t.co/UiWlv0acjy— Pioneer Press (@Pioneer Press)1442633231.0
One way the agency and industry could do that would be to phase out the very conditions that make today’s poultry factories such ripe incubators for public health threats, including bird flu. As Michael Greger, M.D., writes in his book, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, “humanity must shift toward raising poultry in smaller flocks, under less stressful, less crowded and more hygienic conditions with outdoor access.”
In other words, what would be better for the hens’ welfare would also be better for us. The overcrowded and unsanitary conditions on today’s factory farms create ideal breeding grounds for high-pathogenic illness. These systems cause animals to live in states of stress and frustration, weakening their immunity and making them particularly vulnerable to disease. Consequently, what enters a poultry factory as a low-grade virus is allowed to flourish and mutate, possibly turning into a high-risk strain with pandemic potential.
USDA has an opportunity to lead on animal welfare. Promoting cruel and possibly illegal responses to bird flu outbreaks isn’t the way to do that; promoting better treatment of farm animals to reduce their suffering and better protect public health is.
Paul Shapiro is the vice president of farm animal protection at The Humane Society of the United States. Follow him on Twitter at @.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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