Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"Dutch Farmer" responds

Last week we put up a post, "Killing your chickens far from home." It was about the difficulty--logistical and otherwise--of mass poultry culling and highlighted the new career of Harm Kiezebrink, who has invented and is selling a machine to perform this unpleasant task, after losing his father to what he believes was a disease contracted from infected poultry. The post elicited several comments from different points of view (although mainly from farmers faced with the same problem). They are worth reading and follow the post, linked above. But one in particular I felt it fair to post up front, because it is from the subject of the post, Mr. Kiezebrink himself. Here it is, in its entirety:
If bird flu is a subject that you read about in the newspaper or see on the television, it is like an abstract subject. Just a news item that pops up every now and then. If it comes as an unexpected and unwanted guest within your family, killing your father, than you suddenly realize that it can hit you. If you start to explore what can be done about it, you find that the spreading of the disease is unstoppable as long as you don't have techniques available. After the first outbreak of bird flu, the infection coefficient is 8. That means that one farm infects 8 other farms within 48 hours; they all infect again 8 farms within the next 48 hours, and so on, and so forth. The only thing you can do to stop this process is culling the infected birds within the first 24 hours. No matter how many birds are infected. How do you want to do that when there is no technique available? by hand? or like they do it in Asia, by putting them in bags, hit them with sticks and than inflame them?

Just try to imagine how you should do it. Than the risk for the people, the farmers and veterinarians involved. They expose themselves to a deadly virus, in case of an outbreak. I was responsible for more than 1,600 people trying to stop the outbreak in Europe in 2003. 40 of them got infected and those infected people infected more than 4,500 relatives, friends and others. We had to deal with the H7N7 virus. In case this was the H5N1 that is currently active in Asia, this would have been the start of a pandemic outbreak with devastating consequences.

I don't like to cull. It has nothing to do with animal welfare. you end the live of diseased animals. Not for fun, but to stop the further spreading of the virus. To animals and to humans. In Asia, people and animals live close together. 13,4 billion chickens and 3,4 billion ducks in China alone. Last month there was a major outbreak in a nature breeding resort for migrating birds. These birds will start to cross the world in August/ September. To Asia, to the US, to Europe, to Australia. Ask yourself what you should do if these birds would infect birds and people in your direct neighbourhood. Like it unluckily hit my father. You would probably choose a different option, but I decided to do something about it. Knowing that it would not be understood by many people, especially people who are concerned about animal welfare and the position of animals in our society. I respect these people and share their concerns. Nevertheless, what I do is inevitable to stop the spreading of the virus. And if you have to do this, you have to choose the best possible option. Using gas to cull the animals before they die. To use electrocution, to kill them in a fraction of a second. Efficient and quick with as less people involved as possible to minimize the risk of human infection.

I don't want anybody to agree with the option I had, after my father died. I hope you will undertand my choice why I decided to do something to stop further spreading of this deadly virus.

Harm Kiezebrink