BirdLife International's Leon Bunnun on the BBC Website
13 February 2006

BirdLife International's Leon Bunnun on the BBC Website (BBC News: Science/Nature)

Vested interests mean wild birds are being blamed for the spread of avian flu, argues Dr Leon Bennun in this week's Green Room, whereas responsibility really lies with modern farming. Demands for culling and the destruction of nesting sites threaten, he says, to bring rare species to extinction, but will do nothing to halt the disease.

  • "Fuelled in part by alarmist press reports and by the attempts of government agencies to draw blame away from farming, there are now calls for drastic measures against wild bird populations. I believe these measures would put some species at risk of extinction, without having any effect on the spread of avian flu."

  • "If wild birds had been spreading the disease across continents there would have been trails of outbreaks following migration routes; but this hasn't happened. The "wild bird" theory for the spread of H5N1 also provides no explanation as to why certain countries on flight paths of birds from Asia remain flu-free, whilst their neighbours suffer repeated infections."

  • " intensively farmed poultry, the high density of birds and constant exposure to faeces, saliva and other secretions provide ideal conditions for the replication, mutation, recombination and selection through which highly lethal forms can evolve.

    Add to this repeated misdiagnosis, industry and government cover-ups, and panic selling or processing of potentially infected birds, and we have the explanation for why H5N1 is now endemic in parts of South-East Asia."


For the full text please visit the BBC website.