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New Zealand could fall victim to bird flu

26 January, 2004

New Zealand could fall victim to bird flu

Green MP Sue Kedgley said today that the deadly bird flu virus sweeping through South East Asia should be a warning of the significant health risks of rearing birds in unsustainable, over-crowded and unhygienic conditions.

"While our chicken flock is relatively free of disease, if the bird flu managed to reach New Zealand it could easily sweep through our intensively-reared flocks in the same way as Asia because we also raise chickens in overcrowded conditions," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Health spokesperson.

"The bird flu can run rampant through chicken factory farms where tens of thousands of birds are cramped into sheds, and New Zealand has many farms like this.

"We need to face up to the fact that intensive poultry farming is unsustainable and poses a health risk and switch to alternative free-range and organic ways of raising poultry.

"To make matters worse, these birds are force-fed antibiotics to help prevent diseases that can sweep through factory farms. Already, 50 per cent of some chicken flocks are contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are enormously resilient and hard to eliminate," she said.

Ms Kedgley said the latest outbreak of the avian flu demonstrates the foolishness of allowing poultry imports into New Zealand.

"New Zealanders should take some comfort in the knowledge that, so far, we have wisely resisted allowing the importation of chickens into New Zealand despite considerable pressure in the past.

"New Zealand would face a huge risk to both our health and to the poultry industry if we were to open the poultry market to international imports. Instead, we should encourage the organic and free-range poultry market that uses sustainable and less-intensive ways of rearing chickens," said Ms Kedgley.

ENDS

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