Pollo mascherina e virus

From Italy: CIWF insinuates: ‘Deadly viruses; what’s that got to do with our food?’

“Deadly viruses; what does our food have to do with it?” This is what the CIWF is asking in a recent email campaign with links to its website. (full document at this link1 and translated texts at this link2)

CIWF is a very active animal welfare association whose acronym stands for ‘Compassion In World Farming’ that constantly insinuates alleged dangers of poultry farms.

And here again, CIWF confirms the factiousness of its ‘interpretations’ of the facts, writing articles that contain countless falsehoods and ideas distorted by an ideological outlook.

The main characteristic of CIWF’s statements is that it never cites any authoritative and unbiased scientific source to support its beliefs.

Precisely because of this characteristic, which creates suggestive images even though they distort reality, it becomes important to analyse the text of their published message in every detail, in order to give readers, consumers and society at large clear indications and information, based on independent agency opinions, legal regulations and scientific research.

The aforementioned publication is to be challenged in its entirety, stating emphatically that intensive livestock farms do not spread deadly viruses through food.

In order to clarify any unfounded and misleading claims, the individual paragraphs of the animal rights text are listed below, point by point, each followed by the correct, objective and, most importantly, reliable information:



“it is no secret that many of us consume food without knowing where it comes from”.



This is false. The labelling of poultry meat is carefully regulated and detailed in European and Italian legislation. Since Regulation (EC) 543/2008 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Regulation (EC) 1234/2007 and its subsequent amendments and additions, marketing standards have been laid down for poultry meat (chicken, turkey, duck, goose, guinea fowl), with the aim of providing consumers with adequate, clear and objective information on the products offered for sale. This includes the country of origin and the production and slaughtering establishments. For eggs, the code of the farm of origin is even stamped on the shell.



‘most meat, and dairy products/cheeses, come from intensive livestock farming, which is not in the interest of the producer to give to the consumer’.



It is no secret. Whether we like it or not, only on intensive livestock farms is it possible to produce food of animal origin in sufficient quantities to feed the world’s population, with the quality required by health laws and with the level of sustainability demanded by the international agencies involved in the fight against world hunger (FAO, UNESCO). None of these agencies express negative opinions against intensive livestock farming. In contrast, slow-growing organic chicken farms only meet the needs of a niche of affluent consumers in rich countries.



But intensive livestock farms are often much closer to us than we can imagine.



This sentence denotes all the prejudices that animal welfare associations have against intensive production, not even if they were the Chernobyl plant. Prejudices make one lose objectivity in evaluations and credibility in statements. One should neither be against intensive farming nor against alternative production. Both types must coexist and are able to fully satisfy consumer needs. The productions of intensive, low-priced livestock farms appeal to the majority of consumers, those with medium and low incomes (not forgetting the segment unfortunately with no income and the assisted), while niche alternative productions are bought by the better-off consumers.



“The increased production of food from these types of farms has led to increasingly obvious consequences. The stressful and cramped conditions they subject animals to create a breeding ground for viruses and diseases, laying the groundwork for the next global pandemic.”

“In a new report we have published, we explain how bird flu is one such virus, able to move from intensive farming to the wild, wiping out millions of farmed and wild animals. However, the repercussions go beyond the cruel slaughter of animals on farms and the widespread death of wild birds. Viruses continue to evolve, spreading even among mammals (as has happened here in Italy!), posing an increasingly worrying global threat. Without urgent action, new variants could affect us too’.


“How much longer will we stand by and watch these viruses become more deadly, risking turning into the next catastrophic global pandemic? We cannot afford to let another health crisis like COVID-19 devastate our lives and those of our loved ones.”



These paragraphs are the typical bombastic claims based on nothing, now typically referred to as ‘fake news’.

And you don’t need extensive research and studies to demolish them, you simply need to broaden your time horizons and analyse historical events.

We will discover that intensive animal husbandry is one of the tools at mankind’s disposal to prevent the development of new influenza virus pandemics.

In fact, history tells us that influenza virus pandemics have plagued mankind since ancient times, when intensive farming certainly did not exist.

From the 9th century onwards, there are reports, usually in the chronicles of monasteries, of the spread of serious illnesses, characterised by high fever, respiratory system involvement and high mortality, probably related to influenza.

Since then, mankind has been plagued, on average every 30 years, by serious flu epidemics/pandemics.

The last were the 20th century pandemics, the Spanish (1918), the Asian (1957) and the Hong Kong (1968).

Since the 1970s, i.e. since people started to breed in large herds, mankind has not suffered pandemics from influenza viruses. The recent pandemic was caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, and not by influenza viruses, which belong to the family Orthomyxoviridae



This fact is not accidental: in nature, viruses circulate, become more lethal and adapt to attack the human species if we encourage contact between humans and animals in the absence of preventive tools, as was the case in the past.

In those days, rural society lived in close contact with different animal species in precarious hygienic conditions. Nowadays, on intensive farms, one person alone can look after tens of thousands of animals, using protective equipment, while the vast majority of the population lives far away from them. In the rural world, the opposite is the case: tens of thousands of people look after a few chickens each, and the risks of mutation and the spread of pandemic viruses increase dramatically, just as in the past.

Intensive animal husbandry is therefore a powerful means of protection against the indiscriminate spread of avian influenza viruses to humans

The hypocrisy and falsity of the information provided by CIWF, is exposed by the image* (below) they show in their article and the caption because it interprets a very important preventive procedure, such as wearing personal protective clothing, in a negative light, also demonstrating great ignorance on the subject. The protection adopted serves a mutual protection. Humans can in fact be carriers of viruses and bacteria on the farm either directly or accidentally when they fail to observe hygienic practices before entering the herd.

operator in anti-contact gear visible from waist to toe inside an intensive chicken farm full of animals



“Wild birds are usually blamed when intensive, often densely concentrated poultry farms play a crucial role in the spread of the virus. As a recent report by EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, notes, in 2021 in Italy, one of the most affected countries, more than half of the outbreaks of avian influenza were identified “in northern Italy in commercial poultry establishments in areas of high poultry density in the Veneto Region” (EFSA, 2022).”



These statements must also be evaluated by broadening the horizons of observation.

In the last avian influenza epidemic, 140 million chickens were culled worldwide.

They are many. But they are still less than 1% of those reared. The spread of the disease has been contained and the price of poultry products (meat and eggs) has not increased.

This means that the world’s population, thanks to intensive production, in which monitoring and prevention is done, has been able to benefit from high quality food at low prices.

This result is miraculous when compared to the avian influenza epidemics of the past, which appeared in the rural world when intensive production did not exist. These epidemics deprived the population of vital sources of livelihood.

A clear example comes from the one described by Prof. Edoardo Perroncito in 1878. (‘a very serious disease dominated in the autumn of last year and this winter in the poultry of the Piedmontese plains and hills … (omissis) … it produced very serious losses, depopulating many farmers from their poultry houses … (omissis) … it subsequently invaded cottages and villages and for a few months sowed a real massacre in many places. In addition to common and foreign breeds of hens, guinea fowl, ducks and geese were infected … (omissis) … all poultry of the low court suffered the sad effects of the epidemic. https://moreaboutchicken.com/avian-influenza-ai-where-how-when-part-two/


In conclusion, we can state that the information in the right-hand column of the table reports data, cites unbiased scientific sources, and debunks the false and misrepresented statements disseminated by Compassion In World Farming.

It is important for readers to acquire more and more critical capacity and to consider the information they receive with an open and objective mind, thus avoiding being manipulated.

Extremist ideologies tend to evaluate every situation in a reductionist manner, exaggerating the aspects that interest them and giving the reader a completely distorted view of the reality of the facts.


The M.A.C. editorial staff is available for any civil confrontation with CIWF.