Avian influenza (AI): where, how, when (part one)

A correct handling of communication problems in the poultry sector is becoming increasingly important. The editorial staff of M.A.C. is concerned with disseminating correct information, based on scientific and objective grounds, providing it in simple language, so that even the simplest people (who are then the people who consume poultry products) can draw on useful and complete content without any instrumentalisation.

Here, then, are some updates on the subject of bird flu, which, although a serious issue, is all too often instrumentalised by self-styled naturalist associations whose orientation is, in fact, always more oriented towards their own sustenance (fundraising and memberships) than towards a correct and honest analysis of a sector that, like poultry, supports our food and economic wellbeing, taking careful care of farms that deserve to be defined as ‘protected’ rather than intensive because of the care taken by farmers to ensure that animals are protected and in good health.

It must be said that livestock farms, like crops, are not spontaneous structures. Human beings have always managed nature according to their own survival needs. The important thing is that he does so with awareness and care for the environment in general.

There are about 8 billion of us in this world and growing. We cannot look at nature without considering that some of it we have to use to feed ourselves. And everything (really everything) that feeds us, just before we feed ourselves was ‘living’ in its own way. Let’s face it.

Returning to the subject of bird flu, attention should be drawn to how people’s perception of this fact is directly proportional to the amount of messages circulating. Regardless of the seriousness of the message, the version of those who talk about it the most tends to ‘win’ for the most exposed, unprepared, ‘impressionable’ and permeable.


There are few people who can say they know anything about this issue, and these few are veterinarians, researchers, scientists and those working in the field.

On the other hand, there are many articles that circulate, hopefully written in good faith by those who try to make information out of what they find around… and since they often find arguments that are instrumentally constructed with contents that are plausible, but not true… when they report them as news… they produce a disaster.

To summarise on bird flu we can point out a few points:

  • It is undeniable that it is wild animals that infect farmed animals
  • The Avian Influenza (AI) virus is carried by wild birds along migratory routes from Asian Russia to North Africa.
  • Hundreds of wild birds die each year from AI and this mortality is used by veterinarians to monitor the spread of the disease. The surviving wild birds become multipliers of the virus and with their faeces distribute it over the territory.
  • When the danger of contamination increases, free-range farms (including organic ones) are obliged to keep their animals indoors. This shows, among other things, that the danger comes from outside and not from inside the farms.
  • Intensive farms (more correctly termed ‘protected farms’) are the victims of the migration of wild birds and not vice versa.
  • Avian influenza has been present in Northern Europe with ups and downs since the autumn of 2020.
  • The high level of bio-security in poultry farming makes it possible to protect one’s own animals.
  • Intensive’ farms are not reservoirs of viruses ready to explode, nor are they dangerous and unfair places of exploitation. In fact, the level of animal welfare has never been so high and mortality never so low since the poultry industry has existed.
  • Condemning intensive poultry farms for Avian Influenza would be like saying that the countries where Covid19 is most prevalent are countries where overcrowding and stress cause their citizens to suffer and die every day.



Does the highly pathogenic Avian Influenza virus originate in intensive livestock farms?

The animal-rights world has already given its answer to this question, and it is clear, blunt and, above all, certain: ‘Yes, the virus originates in intensive farming and spreads to wild birds, endangering the survival of many species.

At the same time as the answer comes the solution to the problem: after an initial phase of reduction, we must proceed in the medium to long term to the total elimination of poultry farms, with a change in the diet of the world’s population, from which animal proteins will have to be eliminated, completely replaced by proteins of vegetable origin.

It is all very clear and straightforward, a project carried out with lucid determination, dictated by an inflexible ideological movement, which has practically unlimited funds at its disposal to spread its thinking.

However, we know what serious consequences the extremes of ideologies in the world, in all areas, have caused. Ideas pursued with the typical mindset of those who see the world in reductionist terms, of those who only focus on a small part of the problem, eventually lead them to draw conclusions that cause serious damage, if they are extended to the whole context, without having properly assessed it.

In the case of Avian Influenza, the reality of things suggests that we are analysing a very complex problem, whose implications range from health and economics to nutrition and the sustenance of the Third World, a problem that by its very nature requires a holistic approach (i.e. a 360° vision, in which the human being and the world are seen as a whole, interdependent and not separate) and not a reductionist one.

And it is precisely because of this complexity that we must assess it point by point.

  • Where the avian influenza virus is found: it is a virus that has coexisted for millions of years with wild birds, in particular with anatids (migratory waterfowl with relatively short legs and webbed feet). This coexistence has led to a mutual ‘acquaintance’ between the animals and the viruses from which a fair degree of tolerance has resulted. Unfortunately, wild birds spread this virus all over the world and can therefore infect domestic birds, especially those reared outdoors.
  • What happens after infection: the virus, after having infected domestic birds through contact with migratory birds, starts a process of adaptation to the new species, which, faced with an unknown pathogen, often succumb, as they are not vaccinated (in most countries of the world, vaccination against Avian Influenza is not allowed). Viruses are more likely to mutate when there is no equilibrium with the host species, and these mutations can lead to an increase in their pathogenicity (which is the ability of a micro-organism to create damage).

At this point, it can happen that highly pathogenic viruses can return to infect wild birds, causing their death, because they too are unprepared to deal with a variant that has been generated elsewhere, but which nonetheless derives from a previous infection caused by them.

This is why eco-animalist movements and associations insistently call for the abolition of intensive poultry farming, a goal they have been aiming at for a long time, long before they became aware of the presence of Avian Influenza.

It is evident how simplistic their reasoning is and how wrong their conclusions are, which stem from a superficial and reductionist analysis of the problem. Their objectives start from a health problem and seek to discredit and damage poultry production, for essentially ideological reasons.

Therefore, in order to properly investigate this topic and to understand what are the correct strategies to prevent the problems caused by Avian Influenza, it is necessary to broaden the horizons of the evaluation, with an approach that takes into account all the factors and actors involved.

First of all, if we want to place the blame for the serious infection of wild birds exclusively on intensive farms, and then take drastic measures against their survival, we must understand whether the mutations of the Avian Influenza virus originate exclusively within them.


Here too, a broadening of the horizons of evaluation, especially from a historical perspective, can be very helpful in obtaining an answer.

(link to part two)


The editors of MAC