Kolkata, Jan 24: The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) today blamed the West Bengal government for sitting and waiting for the bird flu to strike.
PETA Campaigns Manager N G Jayasimha, ''Animal factories, such as broiler sheds and battery hen warehouses, virtually invite the virus to strike. Because of the animals' intensive confinement the deadly strain spreads easily.'' Meanwhile, bird flu spread across nine districts of the state with Animal Husbandry Minister Anisur Rehman stating that Rs five crores had been sanctioned by the state government to prevent the disease from spreading further. What Jayasimha feared was that if experts of World Health Organisation were to be believed, the virus H5N1 could eventually mutate into a form that is transmissible from human to human, potentially setting off a catastrophic pandemic worldwide.
Jayasimha said in a letter addressed to the animal Husbandry and Vety Services, Government of West Bengal dated June 17, 2007, they had warned the authorities of such an imminent outbreak if the handling of poultry was not changed.
''What the government is doing now is not the solution, it is the disease. The cause lies in the inhuman manner in which poultry farming was being done. The entire breeding process--be it the animal factory or backyard poultry--works as a catalyst to spread the disease. We placed the whole thing before the government and nothing happened,'' he said.
''Now we have sought the Right to Information to see what the status is. We have done an intensive study across India for five years and we have given authentic documents about the hatcheries, broiler chickens, common infectious chicken diseases, laying hens, de-beaking, forced moulting, fatty liver haemorrhagic syndrome and cage layer fatigue,'' he said.
''These reports matter more for West Bengal as North East and West Bengal have maximum backyard farming,'' he added.
He also stated that WHO has negated wild birds as the cause for the spread of the deadly bird flu. ''Chasing them is a waste of time. We should reform the rural poultry practices,'' he said.
Jayasimha also expected that culling would be done methodically according to the norms prescribed by the Bureau for Indian Standards for Poultry Industry. ''They are supposed to be given sedatives, before they are culled painlessly. But what we see is just the opposite. In some places the birds are buried alive and they are seen crawling out of their graves,'' he added.
Statistics released by the World Health Organisation had stated that altogehther 211 people had died in 13 countries so far, out of the 342 cases registered from the H5N1 strain of bird flu.
According to statistics released by Union Health Minister A Ramadoss, the Centre had paid more than USD 19,47,619 as compensation for poultry and feed in 2006 while over USD 2,23,810 was paid for birds culled during the 2007 outbreak.
A PeTA official had said that the only certain way to safeguard our health is to stop the consumption of chicken. The poultry industry must also ensure the immediate implementation of certain simple welfare standards to improve the lives of the birds.