COVID-19 isn't the only illness causing concern around the globe right now: Bird flu has swept through Europe, leaving the poultry industry in disarray. Many countries have been affected by the spread of the avian flu with Sweden as the current epicenter. Sweden’s largest egg producer has been ravaged with cases of both the N5N5 and H5N8 variants of the avian flu, which has lead the producer to plan to cull more than one million chickens. The two variants appeared on a farm in Monsteras on January 18th, resulting in Sweden's poultry industry’s dire decision to stop the spread.

The country’s Board of Agriculture released a statement, announcing, “Unfortunately, the disease has spread within the facility. [This] means that a large portion of all the animals, around 1.3 million, will be culled and destroyed.”

Swedish Egg Producer Announces Plans to Cull Over 1.3 Million Chickens

The bird flu has infiltrated the poultry industry frequently over the years, resulting in repeated massive cullings and the deaths of millions of livestock animals. In 2015, a chicken farm in Iowa discovered an outbreak where 3 million birds fell victim to the disease and were subsequently culled. On top of the 9 billion chickens used for food in the United States alone, the culling adds to the expanding toll of the poultry industry.

French producers of Foie Gras faced a similar problem earlier in the year. They called for hundreds of thousands of ducks to be culled after an explosive outbreak of the highly contagious H5N8. The country culled 350,000 ducks and plan to increase that number to 400,000. The fast-spreading disease has other European countries scrambling to minimize and stop the spread of the virus.

The UK Takes Action to Prevent Future Culling of Birds

The United Kingdom ordered all avian livestock to be kept inside in order to stop the rapid spreading of avian flu. After seeing the number of deaths climbing through Europe, the UK hopes to not organize a culling within its own country.

“We’ve taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease. [We] are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds,” UK’s three Chief Veterinary Officers said. “Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from 14 December onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors. Or, take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds…But, it’s the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

This culling serves as a reminder of the collateral damage the poultry industry or animal farming as a whole can cause. With more than a million birds affected by the bird flu, these harmful practices are once again in the limelight, and the move to a plant-based diet becomes even more important to prevent more future cullings of animals worldwide.

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