As COVID-19 forces Melbourne and the rest of Victoria into strict stage 4 lockdown, another zoonotic disease – avian influenza (or “bird flu”) – has broken out on an egg farm in Victoria.
According to Agriculture Victoria, both birds and their eggs have tested positive for H7N7 avian influenza virus on the farm near Lethbridge. Like the novel coronavirus, H7N7 can jump from another animal to humans.
The farm has been quarantined, and officials are conducting surveillance in the area to determine whether the virus is contained on this property or has spread to nearby farms.
All the birds on the property are being “destroyed” – or in other words, killed.
Bird Flu – like COVID-19 – is A Zoonotic Disease
The Australian poultry industry has experienced several disease outbreaks over the years, which is scary, but unsurprising. Anywhere you have high volumes of animals crammed into filthy conditions, you have breeding grounds for pandemics. According to the US Centres for Disease Control, approximately 75 percent of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting people began as diseases in animals.
In his book “How To Survive A Pandemic”, Dr Michael Greger warns that the next pandemic – possibly “100 times worse when it comes” and capable of producing a “fatality rate of one in two” – is likely to originate on a poultry farm.
Clearly, concerns about zoonotic diseases are not limited to China or even the wildlife trade. In fact, in a paper published in 2018, Belgian spatial epidemiologist Marius Gilbert found that more “conversion events” for bird flu – in which a not-very-pathogenic strain of the virus becomes more dangerous – had occurred in Australia than in China . On farms and in slaughterhouses, animals are crammed together in small areas, defecating and bleeding on each other – these places are petri dishes of suffering and disease.
Swine flu, bird flu, and mad cow disease – the names for these illnesses are not arbitrary. They’re named after the animals in whom they originated.
Enough is Enough
We’re in the midst of a pandemic borne from our exploitation of animals, and this bird flu outbreak in Victoria is more of the same.
While parts of Australia go back into lockdown in an attempt to slow the transmission of the virus, it’s unfathomable that animal flesh factories are still open. To prevent future pandemics, we must end the demand for animal-derived food entirely.
If we don’t, we may not just be locked down. We may be dead.
Every time we sit down to eat, we’re either feeding injustice or fighting it. You can help change our food system, protect the environment, and reduce both the inherent risks to workers and the suffering of animals by ending your support for the exploitation and slaughter of living, feeling beings.
Please, eat as if all our lives depend on it, because they do.