To Avoid Another Pandemic, We Must Stop Exploiting Chickens

Author: Miriam Porter:

Recent mainstream media articles are raising concerns about another pandemic happening.

“Bird flu, or avian flu, continues to spread across Canada, leaving some experts worried about its potential to become more transmissible among humans, and potentially sparking another pandemic.”Global News

For months there has been talk among chicken farmers about H5N1, or bird flu, arriving in Ontario. Outbreaks already happened in Quebec last summer, and farms in British Columbia have been under quarantine. Experts are concerned this new virus could become a human threat as it gains momentum.

“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has advised the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) of the confirmed presence of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Canada.” - Canadian Food Inspection Agency

At the end of March 2023, there were 1,829 confirmed and suspected cases of bird flu in animals overall in Canada. But bird flu is not just limited to birds such as chickens, ducks, or geese. Experts say there is spillover to other wild animals, such as seals, skunks and captive minks on fur farms, such as what happened on a mink farm in Spain. Avian influenza has spread across Asia and Europe among chickens too. 


The virus normally spreads among bird species but sometimes can jump from bird to human, as was the recent case in Cambodia, where an 11-year-old girl, who lived near a conservation area, reportedly died from the virus.” Global News

“The Ontario government and the province's poultry industry are putting renewed focus on biosecurity at their first meeting in the three years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with the hope farmers' actions today might stop an even deadlier pandemic before it begins.” - CBC

Many articles referenced biosecurity becoming big business in animal agriculture as they frantically sell disinfectants, personal protective equipment, and even biosecurity training for farmers to clean up the mess after avian flu outbreaks. But what if there is a solution that doesn’t involve disinfectant and protective equipment? A solution that stops the spread of zoonotic diseases in addition to being better for the planet, our health, and spares chickens from a violent death? Keep reading to learn what you can do to prevent another pandemic.


This photo was taken by Mumbai Animal Save organizers at a chicken vigil just minutes before they were killed. 


Barcelona Animal Save hold regular animal vigils and rescues chickens on their way to slaughter.

1. Stop eating chickens & eggs

Yes, it’s that simple. To prevent bird flu from spreading, we can stop eating birds and their eggs and stop supporting animal agriculture and all factory farming. There are more chickens raised and killed for food than all other land animals combined, and they are among the most abused creatures on Earth. These chickens typically live inside battery cages in dirty and overcrowded sheds holding tens of thousands of birds each. Bacteria and other pathogens, including diseases, spread quickly because the chickens live in their own excrement on top of each other in confinement. Farms not using battery cages are not immune to spreading disease, and it’s important to know that “cage-free” doesn’t equal “cruelty-free”. Free-range only means the chickens have regular access to an outside area, such as gravel or concrete, for five minutes daily, and bird flu can still spread. 

Chicks are separated from egg residue and sexed by workers at a hatchery in Poland. Male chicks along with any injured or weak chicks are killed and the females are sent to farms. Photo by: Andrew Skowron / We Animals Media

In the egg industry, baby male chicks are deemed useless and killed because they don’t provide profit to farmers since they don’t lay eggs. Killing methods include gassing the chicks, grounding them up alive while fully conscious, sucking them through pipes and electrocuting them, or tossing them directly in trash bags to suffocate and die slowly. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Swap out your chicken eggs for Just Egg or use apple sauce, bananas or ground flax seeds in your baking. Instead of eating the flesh of chickens, check out alternatives like Gardein, Beyond Chicken, and Nuggs, or try jackfruit, cauliflower, tofu or tempeh to replace meat in your favourite dish.

Toronto Chicken Save regularly bears witness at Maple Leaf “Foods” chicken slaughterhouse

2. Attend a Chicken Save vigil & raise awareness

    Bear witness to chickens in their final moments and attend a Chicken Save vigil. By taking photos and videos at vigils and sharing them on social media, you help raise awareness about what is happening behind closed doors of the transport trucks and slaughterhouses. For example, Toronto Chicken Save regularly bears witness at Maple Leaf “Foods” chicken slaughterhouse in Toronto that violently kills approximately 200,000 chickens daily. Pia Sarker is the community organizer and you can join and speak out against the injustice and cruelty to chickens. In 2022 they held 24 vigils at Maple Leaf slaughterhouse, and their Instagram posts tell their stories.


    Robert Sud organizes LA Animal Save chicken vigils, and photos from their monthly events to bear witness can be found on their Instagram account. If you are in LA, consider joining their next event to raise awareness for the voiceless and vulnerable victims in the chicken industry.

    3. Stop building new slaughterhouses

    Farming animals for food and clothing can spread serious infectious zoonotic diseases to humans, as we have seen with coronavirus.

    “The majority of diseases that have caused epidemics or pandemics in recent years are zoonotic, including AIDS, avian flu, swine flu, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, and COVID-19.”2 PETA

    As long as humans continue to exploit chickens and other animals for food, diseases will continue to spread. We must close all slaughterhouses and stop building new ones. Demand 1 of the Plant Based Treaty is to “relinquish”, including no building of new slaughterhouses, animal farms, no conversion of any land for animal feed production and no conversion of plant-based agriculture to animal agriculture. To help stop bird flu, the most logical plan is to close slaughterhouses spreading the disease. This should be extended to wet markets and all animal agriculture facilities to help prevent future pandemics.

     Contact local politicians and ask them to commit to transitioning to a plant-based food system and endorsing the Plant Based Treaty.

    4. Help chicken farmers switch to plant production

    Former animal farmers like Jay Wilde of 73 Cows switched to veggie farming, proving change is possible. The former UK cow and dairy farmer inherited his father’s business, despite his personal conflict with sending animals to their death. With the help of Vegan Organic Network, an organization in the UK concerned with ethical and climate-friendly food production, Wilde transitioned to plant-based vegan farming. Other farmers have also chosen compassion and switched to growing veggies instead of raising animals for food. The Plant-Based Treaty believes in incentivised subsidies such as grants for farmers to switch from animal agriculture to diversified plant production. Their mission to shift “land ownership into community hands so the land can be repurposed for reforestation, green space and community food gardens and allotments” will help our Earth flourish and restore natural ecosystems.

    5. Support plant-based alternatives to chickens across the board

    We can help avoid another pandemic by transitioning away from animal-based food systems and moving to plant-based systems. The Plant Based Treaty believes in eliminating the driving force behind the problem, such as farming chickens for their flesh and eggs. This can be done in several ways, including “updating government food and dietary guidelines to promote plant-based food; transitioning to plant-based meal plans in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and government institutions; introducing a meat tax (including fish) with proceeds funding the restoration of land destroyed by animal agriculture and subsidizing fruits and vegetables to make a whole food, plant-based diet more affordable”.  Learn more about supporting the demands of the Plant-Based Treaty to make way for a better world and avoid another pandemic.

      How you can help:

      1. Download your free vegan action starter kit to get started with a plant-based diet.
      2. Sign the Plant Based Treaty. Your signature will help put pressure on national governments to negotiate an international Plant Based Treaty as a companion to the UNFCCC/Paris Agreement. The treaty calls for system changes such as an end to the expansion of animal agriculture, the redirection of subsidies and public information campaigns, and restoration and reforestation on land and sea.
      3. Make a donation to help us launch and maintain impactful campaigns like Plant Based Treaty, which demands a plant-based food system for the benefit of animals, climate, and health.

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