FW: The-Real-Story on Avian Influenza in the Fraser

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David Hancock has every credential necessary to address this
problem.  His opinion is important.  I have been with David
Hancock on wild bird studies in BC, the Yukon and the North West
Territories. His books on Grouse and Pheasants and Raptors are
recognized around the world.
P Press Release
The Real Story on Avian Influenza:
David Hancock
Hancock Wildlife Research Center
Fraser Valley Resident and Biologist
[email protected]
(604) 538-1114
Fraser Valley Avian Influenza Epidemic: A study of epic blunders.
>From beginning to end this is a classic problem of misplaced
and politics and based on:
Wrong science,
Wrong people being blamed,
Wrong people and birds suffering
Wrong people profiteering
Wrong solution being imposed
The real story of the Avian Influenza outbreak in the Fraser
Valley is told in the
Canadian Food Inspection Agencies (CFIA) own Public
Announcements. They
clearly define their belief in the originating and continuing
cause of the Influenza
and by logical scientific conclusion state the solution ---- BUT
they are following
a politically different route — a route that pays-off and rewards
the wrong people;
a route that puts hardship and suffering on the wrong people and
kills the wrong
This whole Avian Influenza outbreak is a classic example of
government bungling
followed by further provincial - federal government
jurisdictional disputes and
power struggles. The simple and proper preventative measures
elsewhere in North America have not been followed here. The
taxpayers and the
wildlife and bird fanciers of this area are being called upon to
shoulder the lack of
responsibility that should have been demanded by the Provincial
Department of
Agriculture and the poultry industry. On top of this a number of
poultry farms, government agency employees and clear-up companies
making big bucks off the general publics back and suffering.. The
taxpayer foots
the bill for all the inadequacies and bad science.
Lets look at the details.
CFIA data sheet states:: (Canadian Food Inspection Agency:
Department of
“How is the disease transmitted to birds? Wild birds, especially
waterfowl, are
natural reservoirs for the influenza viruses – yet show no
clinical signs – and can
be responsible for the primary introduction of infection into
domestic poultry.”
The virus can also spread to birds through contact with infected
poultry and
poultry product, and through manure and litter containing high
concentrations of
the virus, for example through contaminated clothing and
footwear, vehicles and
equipment, and feed and water.”
And unbelievably from the same CFIA release:
“What can livestock producers do to prevent infections on their
farms? Wild bird
populations are the natural reservoir for the influenza viruses.
Therefore, it is
essential for commercial poultry producers to maintain strict
So the Federal Government veterinarians admit they know both the
problem and the solution. So why has this outbreak been so severe
and the proposed solution so draconian? And more importantly,
why was it not prevented? And particularly, why arn’t their
actions following their own advice?
One of the basic problems here is simple greed. If a farmers can
get away without
the cost of proper biosecuruity why shouldn’t they? If the
farmers can cause
sufficient alarm to the public and shift the problem to others
why shouldn’t they?
No one, and this means the officials at the Provincial Department
of Agriculture,
has initiated or enforced the same biosecurity controls that most
other places in
North America demand.
So the government clearly knows the problem and the solution –
and this is not
surprising as this same scenario of disease dissemination among
the poultry
producers is worldwide. Repeated outbreaks occur throughout North
and the rest of the world – frequently. The poultry industry has
had to
incorporate very strict biosecurity control measures – everywhere
but in British
Columbia! These biosecurity controls are the resonsibility of the
Province, not the
Federal government that has now been brought in to clean up a BC
mess that has
taken on international health implications. Fortunately, the
health implications
this time are only for confined chickens — and the export of them
to the US!
So what is the Department of Agriculture proposing:
CFIA: “Avian Influenza: Depopulation of all birds in Briltish
Columbia’s Fraser
“19 million birds to be depopulated – exterminated”
According to Govt of Canada : CCFIA:
Most Avian Influenzas are of low pathogenicity and typically
cause little or no
clinical signs in infected wild or captive birds and no problems
for people.
But low pathogenic forms, in the highly contagious environment of
brooder and breeding facilities can mutate and become more
Our strain in BC: H7N3: Low pathogenic
TX strain:: H5N2 Highly Pathogenic
NJ / DE: H7N2 “ ” “
PE: h2N2
When will Canada regain its statis of beomg FREE”
- 6 months after the slaughter of the last affected animal. “”
practices include the humane destruction of all infected or
animals;surveillance and tracing of potentially infected or
exposed animals; strict
quarantine and animal movement controls; strict decontamination
of infected
premises; amd zpmomg tp defome omfected amd desease-free areas”.
ON April 6, 2004, Canada removed the import restrictions on Texas
imports as the Texas outbreak had been completely eradicated –
AND without
killing any private avicultural or wild birds.
Canada exported: “In 2002 , Canada exported 119 million kg of
chicken meat to
numerous countries.”
“On April 5, 2004, the Honourable Bob Speller, Minister of
Agriculture and Agri-
Food and Minister responsible for the Canadian Food Inspection
Agency (CFIA)
announced the depopulation of all commercial poultry flocks and
other backyard
birds in the Control Area established March 11 in British
Columbia's Fraser
Valley in an effort to eradicate avian influenza. The decision is
based on the
recommendation of the CFIA in consultation with the Province of
Columbia and the poultry industry.”
On Saturday April 24 I attended the open meeting / information
session of CFIA at Abbotsford.
Attendance was reported at 86 non-government individuals - mostly
keepers. A further 35 - 45 persons represented the provincial and
Department of Agricultures to answer questions. Most were CFIA
personnel (they report about 150 working out of the BC office)
imported from Quebec, Ontario and the prairie provinces at great
cost of
overtime and living expenses. Each of the dozen people I spoke
reported they were having a great time out west. I wish they
would go
I spoke with many of the CFIA veterinarians and safety workers:
None seem to have ANY meaningful grasp of the impact or
of wild birds on this crisis. None seemed to realize that we have
than a million waterfowl and several thousand bald eagles working
through the Fraser Valley, that these birds have been feeding
daily in
and on the poultry farmers discarded litter. There was
universally an
acknowledgment that w ild birds probably initially transported
the wild
virus to this area. But none of the government personnel
considered that
the wild birds could be meaningful in the dissemination of the
disease from the contaminated farmers fields back to other
farms. This is both alarming and telling! W hen I then related
conclusion back to them and asked why then, would they worry
killing all the backyard flocks of wild ducks geese and swans or
avicultural birds, which are not in contact with the poultry
industry, they
simply said that “... that was their mandate” Totally illogical.
Update: 0940 Wednesday April 28, 2004: Dr Ron Lewis, the Chief
for the Province of BC states that there is still no BC record of
a wild
bird species getting sick or transmitting the disease.
The reasoning got worse as I got further up the chain of
command. Dr. George Luterback, the Director of Veterinarian
CFIA Western Division. Calgary (he is in charge of the
program) was a prime example of government double talk.
I spent about 15 minutes asking and talking about the waterfowl
eagle situation in the Valley. Since he had only casual knowledge
on the
existence of a few ducks, I explained that as a wildlife
biologist I had
been specifically studying the Fraser Valley birds. He quickly
made the
point that not only did they not plan to kill wild waterfowl but
that he
had no authority to do so.
Then the double-talk started. First, he acknowledged that wild
could be and likely were the initial transporter of the
non-lethal avian
influenza into the area. He then confirmed that the lethel form
of the
virus that had developed in the commercial barns was not known to
transported by wild birds. Now that is telling! and certainly not
logical leadin to his killing program.
If the wild birds are not likely to transmit the virulent strain
and no wild
birds are to be killed, then obviously there is no worry about
the wild
birds spreading the disease to backyard poultry or avicultural /
flocks. So why kill all the avicultural / pet birds? There of
course is no
evidence that any private captive wild collection of birds have
disease. These pet birds are therefore not getting the disease
from the polluted poultry barns – or vice versa! In fact the
birds generally, like the wild birds, do not get the avian flu.
I asked Dr. Luterback: “Why incur those millions of dollars of
in eradicating these private birds if they are not the vector?
Why inflict
this incredible cost and hardship on pet flocks? He responded:
need to eliminate the “perception” (his word) that we have not
everything possible? Absurd! This is not a science based logical
eradication. It is largely the federal government acting
and for political terms. They are undertaking a massive kill of
pet and
avicultural birds for no scientific reason.
The government killing procedure is even more revealing. If they
to kill a backyard flock of rare or pet birds because they are
within the
killing zone (the Fraser Valley) they will not test them before
them — but they mayl test them afterwords. That is even more
First, they say that wild birds flying around the neighborhood
and over commercial poultry farms offer no threat, yet the same
of swans, geese or ducks in some ones backyard pond is somehow a
threat. How do 500 swans, geese and ducks flying between a city
and the poultry farmers contaminated fields offer less threat to
commercial poultry than 10 captive geese confined on the backyard
pond. They obviously don’t! However, the government killers have
authority to kill the captive birds but don’t have the authority
to kill the
wild birds. Or perhaps at the moment, they don’t want to risk the
Neither wild nor private backyard flocks are a threat to the
industry but authority and power seeking takes president..
Captive birds
can and are being needlessly killed. There is no scientific
Finally, on questioning Dr. Luterbach on how killing of all
flocks of waterfowl, avicultural birds and backyard poultry
flocks could
benefit the poultry industry he ended up stating that in spite of
possible re-distribution of any disease by wild waterfowl, gulls,
starlings or eagles, that the issue boiled down to getting the
industry working and exporting chicken products as soon as
He emphasized that the “ ...proposed total kill of captive birds
would be
perceived as the correct management procedure” Science and
by dammed!
I have just consulted a medical doctor about Dr. Luterbachs
sanity. Just
as Military Generals or Sergeants can’t order people killed
indiscriminately or without due legitimate cause, it is possible
that Dr.
Luterbachs extermination policy of thousands of healthy birds, in
conditions he and his department personally considers safe and
could be grounds for an insanity commitment. Perhaps
criminal! Are there doctors or lawyers out there that would
address this?
It is totally a bazar situation when a government body, defines
situation as perfectly safe yet, for presenting an expedient
of political action undertakes the killing of thousands of
private birds for
nothing. Our Federal Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable Bob
Speller, and his servants are not serving us well – or at all.
More Optomistic BC Option?
My next conversation had a glimmer of hope: it was with our BC
Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable, John van Dongen. The
provincial government does have jurisdiction on how our
businesses function and what biosecurity regulations the poultry
operates under. It is only when the situation gets out of hand
preventative measures fail that the federal government steps in
and claims
jurisdiction on health and disease issues. It is up to the
provinces to
control the conditions that prevent the disease – the biosecurity
at the
poultry farms.
I spoke with him for 12 - 14 minutes: he was very attentive but
very naive about the huge numbers of wild waterfowl and bald
foraging the poultry farmers litter covered fields.
My fears were initially raised when I first asked him what
regulations his
Department of Agriculture had in place to insure biosecurity in
poultry industry. His answer was frightening: “The poultry
industry is
self policing” Self policing indeed! — and we have before us the
results. Next time will we be dealing with an avian influenza
that is also
lethal to humans?
I then went on to describe my studies of the Fraser Valley bald
Watching the sequence of birds responding to the regular dumping
poultry farm litter onto the fields was enlightening. He began to
increasing attention as the flocks progressed from a few hundred
starlings landing immediately behind the tractor — and how during
afternoon of observation this flock might make 50 trips between
farm fields and the nearby farm buildings where they lined the
lines and did their droppings around the farm buildings – to the
dozens of crows, the flocks of pigeons and few hundred gulls that
followed them. When I got to the dozens to hundreds of bald
eagles that
then dived in to squabble over the dead chicken carcasses and
that the
entire fields could be populated by wild birds before the tractor
had left,
he was starting to take on a serious heir. When I then described
thousands of swans, geese and ducks that then arrived into these
fields and then passed up and down the Valley to the nearby lakes
or all
the way to Boundry and Semiahmoo Bays to rest securely on the sea
the night, it was as though a light came on! I was telling him
that he had seen daily but never quite brought into perspective.
poultry farmers habits were the source of the contamination and
that could spread up and down the Valley with 10,000
daily unpaid helpers. Hopefully he was going to have the courage
change this.
We discussed the obvious conclusion that even with all these wild
foraging in the polluted fields, that this specific Avian
Influenza had not
infected a single private breeder. That with all this wild bird
traffic no
private breeders had contacted the disease. This Avian Influenza
outbreak was obviously confined to the commercial breeders and I
him to stop the needless killing of the home flocks of pet and
birds. This killing was needless and served no purpose.
He obviously was needing to talk to others but I was astounded to
his astute departing summary:
“Mr. Hancock, You would be happy with:
1) Effective constraints on litter distribution and biosecurity
on the
poultry industry and”
2) Non-eradication of backyard and avicultural flocks that are
not the
cause of the problem.”
Indeed I would. And nothing less.
He hit the nail on the head. With some government teeth to
industry self- discipline – or the lack thereof — this might be a
start. Perhaps the continents largest flyway of waterfowl and
eagles might
just be spared a real serious disaster — if Mr. van Dongen does
his job.
Perhaps thousands of his constituents will get to keep their
treasured pet
swans, ducks, chickens, pheasants or emus, and the more thousands
people who pay out or earn money from their feeding and housing
appreciate their jobs.
Later, I learned that Mr. van Dongen lived in the Valley right
next door
to the first poultry farm that became infected!!! Ouch! Was he
naive, or
just cagey? Was he so astute because he know the problem and the
solution but wanted it quickly side-tracked? Was he a lackie for
poultry farmer constituents or could and would he take the
position and activate a very needed program? Time will tell. I
think he
might make it. His Victoria office phone number is 250 387-1023.
The current issue is the present policy of total needless
extermination of
aviculturally rare and pet birds. Here, as indicated above, the
extermination policy has no potential benefit to the poultry
farmer. It is a
left-over policy of another era when our understanding of disease
transmission was less known, when doing something, even something
draconian as killing all birds in an area of a thousand square
seemed to be the ONLY something that could be done.
Now we know from the governments own words that the dissemination
of the mutated disease is not through wild birds but from farm to
farm by
the poultry workers, the feed delivery vans, the killing and
cleanup crews
and the government inspectors. Lets get both the blame and
right and there will be no need to kill all birds in the Valley.
This will
save the taxpayers millions of dollars and our community untold
heartache. While there may be a handful of commercial breeders at
(while there are some 29 affected farms I am told that one farmer
17 different flocks), there are many thousands of persons with
flocks of chickens, pens and ponds with a few pheasants and swans
geese and hundreds more with very rare (and often very expensive
and endangered species whose blood lines once lost will never be
retrieved again. Commercial poultry farmers may have big bucks,
the thousands of conservationists, pet keepers, backyard farmers
people who do not like cruel injustices, have one hell of a lot
more votes.
The government needs to halt the mass extermination and focus on
contaminated farms and the biosecurity control at these farms.
disaster is a product of poor farm management and its solution is
rooted at these farms.
The Honourable Bob Speller, Federal Minister of
Agriculture, his Western Veterinarian Director, Dr. Peter
Luterbach and
the Honourable John van Dongen, BC Minister of Agriculture 250
1023. – this is your time to apply common sense, modern science,
broadbased economics and compassion — the public demands it.
David Hancock
Hancock Wildlife Research Center
Fraser Valley Resident and Biologist
[email protected]
(604) 538-1114
This was sent by David Ingram
(604) 657-8451
(604) 980-0321
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