Pulse Media


The New Terror


Fuelled in part by alarmist press reports and by the attempts of government agencies to draw blame away from farming, there are now calls for drastic measures against wild bird populations.

I believe these measures would put some species at risk of extinction, without having any effect on the spread of avian flu.


Much more likely is that before starting out, they picked up the virus from farms, either from infected poultry or their faeces. Mute swans often graze agricultural fields, and are likely to have come into contact with poultry manure spread as a fertiliser.


But in intensively farmed poultry, the high density of birds and constant exposure to faeces, saliva and other secretions provide ideal conditions for the replication, mutation, recombination and selection through which highly lethal forms can evolve.


Some of the agencies attempting to monitor and control avian flu, such as the FAO, seem to have been reluctant to draw attention to the role of intensive agriculture, because of the impact on national economies and on access to cheap sources of protein.


It may also be time to take a long, hard look at the way the world feeds itself, and to decide whether the price paid for modern farming in terms of risks to human health and the Earth's biodiversity is too high.