Avian Flu: Emergency in France

01 Jan 1970

Avian flu is back, this time on duck farms in southwest France. It’s been spreading since the end of November 2016, affecting over 300 sites, mostly in the Landes region, which is the country’s largest producer of foie gras, accounting for a quarter the national total.

In the region affected by the H5N8 virus, a pre-emptive cull of the duck population has been carried out, with 400,000 animals killed. Landes and Gers are the most heavily affected areas, but the cull is widening week after week, involving other French départements
too (Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées and Haute-Garonne).

It’s difficult to establish with certainty if the virus was introduced by wild animals (the area is transited by migratory birds) and then spread by farm staff (via clothes, shoes or vehicles). Some of the ducklings raised in southwest France come from Eastern Europe (above all Romania, where they cost much less than in France) and are transported to France without being able to eat or drink during the journey.

The division of the supply chain for foie gras only makes matters worse. The ducks pass from one hyper-specialized establishment to another during their short lives: from breeding farms to hatcheries to chick farms, then outdoor farms where they grow, the specialist force-feeding farms, the abattoirs and finally the processing facilities. Each step happens in a different place, requiring the continuous transportation of the animals, often across long disances.

This is already an industry which must be condemned from an ethical point of view, considering the conditions in which the ducks are raised even before they are force-fed, and now also on health grounds.

Images: Reuters

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