Are animal activists spreading avian flu to poultry farms?

The California Department of Food and Agriculture has questioned if animal welfare activists were the source of HPAI outbreaks that occurred at the end of 2023.

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Soleg1974 |

A California state investigation into Sonoma County’s highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks that occurred in late 2023 indicate that animal activists may have contributed to the spread of the virus.

The State’s report identifies multiple farm management practices that could have spread of the virus around the county but highlights the possibility that animal welfare activists introduced HPAI to the farms during undercover missions.

According to the report, animal activists were videoed trespassing inside poultry barns and removing ducks on the nights of October 24th, 2023, and November 14th, 2023.

Just eight days later, decreased egg production was documented, a sign that that birds were infected. While wild birds migrating through the area at the time could have been the cause of the outbreaks, the state’s investigation found it plausible that the virus was introduced into the barns during those undercover missions.

Afterwards, the activists supposedly posted on social media that they “rescued” the birds from a poultry farm in the area, which later was found to be the second location that HPAI was detected. The State’s report noted that the whole genome sequence samples taken from both farms were similar.

One of my colleagues, Roy Graber, wrote about a very similar situation in December 2023. In that situation, animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) co-founder Wayne Hsiung was sentenced to 90 days in jail with two years of probation for one count of felony conspiracy and two counts of misdemeanor trespassing.

Later, DxE said that the crimes he was sentenced for took place at Sunrise Farms and Reichardt. Both locations just happen to be in Sonoma County.

While the two are eerily comparable, I can’t confirm if this incident and the one Graber wrote about in December are connected. If they are, I wouldn’t be surprised. If they aren’t, that’s just another strike against the activists spreading a deadly disease to the birds they are trying to “save.”

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