The United States has been ablaze with avian influenza this year. The disease swept like a wildfire across state borders engulfing evermore territory and victims in its path. Nearly 50 million chickens (and other poultry) have burned as a result of avian flu – first with fever and later in incinerators after being part of mass cullings aimed to slow the disease’s spread.
How to stop this disease is a matter of significant debate. One state has taken an aggressive stance to avian flu and is ruffling the feathers of some backyard poultry keepers.
In July, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA) mandated that all poultry owners, regardless of the number of birds in their flock (even just a single bird), must register for an NCFarmID number. Even though no cases of avian flu have been reported in North Carolina so far, the NCDA’s mandatory identification system is being put in place in case it does arrive. State officials claim that the mandatory poultry registration will allow for quick response if an outbreak is spotted. Officials from the NCDA believe that even backyard-chicken owners should register their birds so that if a farm becomes infected with the disease the state can alert all of the other poultry owners in the area quickly.
“In planning our response for highly pathogenic avian influenza, one problem we’ve come across is that we can’t protect birds that we don’t know exist,” said state veterinarian Doug Meckes. “We need to know where poultry are located so we can properly protect commercial and backyard flocks.”
North Carolina is the third largest producer of turkeys and broiler chickens in the United States bringing in $4.1 billion in direct-from-farm sales of poultry. Consequently, the state has a vested interest in protecting one of its most important industries.
Opponents decry the North Carolina’s mandatory poultry registration as governmental overreach and unnecessary. North Carolina’s Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler’s implementation of the mandatory registration program lead many to denounce it as yet another example of an administrative department overstepping its authority in government. Troxler’s unilaterally enacted the program without the vote of the North Carolina legislature or the input of the state’s citizens.
Additionally, the avian flu has overwhelmingly struck factory farms throughout the states – not backyard flock owners as discussed in a Mother Jones article on the issue. Adversaries to the program argue that mandatory registration is an excessive intrusion into the lives of the state’s small flock holders, especially in light of the fact that backyard flocks have been demonstrated to not be the root of the spread of the disease. Others doubt that the government’s capabilities to effectively be put any meaningful plan into action if the occasion should arise, despite the information gathered through the mandatory poultry registration program. Government is not generally known for being agile and efficient in a crisis.
Lastly, some suspect that the program is more insidious than what is apparent at first blush. The mandatory registration system is a de facto tracking system of all poultry (and poultry owners) in the state of North Carolina. According to opponents of the program, this is an unfair intrusion into the privacy of the state’s citizens and smack’s more of surveillance than vigilance.
What do you think of North Carolina’s mandatory poultry registration program? Is it a fair tool to prevent the spread of avian flu or more governmental abuse of people’s privacy and right to be free of intrusion on their own property? Leave your comments below – I am trying out having comments on the website.
- Facebook – No to N.C. Chicken Registration FB PAGE
- Mother Jones – Bird Flu Slamming Factory Farms Not Backyards LINK
- Your Daily Journal – NC Poultry Mandatory Registration ARTICLE
- Growing Small Farms – All Poultry Farms Must Register ARTICLE
- Centers for Disease Control – Avian Influenza in Birds ARTICLE
- Mike the Chicken Vet – Avian Influenza Again ARTICLE
- Natl Chicken Council – Q & A on Avian Influenza ARTICLE
- USDA-APHIS – Avian Influenza Disease ARTICLE
- The Chicken-Chick – What to Do About Bird Flu? ARTICLE
- NC State Univ. – Preventing Avian Flu in Backyard Flocks ARTICLE
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