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The number of chickens, turkeys and other farm birds killed in the past two months in the US to prevent the spread of avian flu has climbed to more than 24 million, with outbreaks reported nearly daily. And as the goal is to destroy the birds within 24 hours to limit the spread of the disease these massacres are often rushed causing a great deal of suffering. 

This year’s outbreak, covering 24 US states, is the biggest since 2015, when farmers had to kill more than 50 million birds. Iowa alone have had about 13.3 million chickens and turkeys killed so far. The American Veterinary Medical Association has acknowledged its techniques to kill the birds “may not guarantee that the deaths the animals face are painless and distress free.”

One of the methods used is “ventilation shutdown”, where farmers stop airflow into barns, which raises temperatures to levels at which the animals die. That was the technique Direct Action Everywhere showed it was used to kill 5.3 million hens at a northwest Iowa egg operation Rembrandt Enterprises used last month. Iowa’s prosecutors charged Matt Johnson, a DxE undercover investigator, in a case involving documenting ventilation shutdown in a pig farm. After he and others got a tip, they secretly placed cameras inside Iowa Select Farms premises. They recorded the killing of hundreds of animals with ventilation shutdown. The case was eventually dropped. In 2021, animal rights groups delivered a petition signed by 3,577 people, including almost 1,600 veterinarians, that urged the veterinary association to stop recommending ventilation shutdown as an option. Sara Shields, director of farm animal welfare science at Humane Society International, said this about all the methods to kill the birds that have been used: “We have to do better. None of these are acceptable in any way.” All the rushed killings reported are only a consequence of the pandemic, but the death sentence of each bird was already signed as they were all bred to be killed anyway. The “pandemic” of human egg and meat consumption spread by carnists and vegetarians is far more deadly than avian flu.