Mail to Aiwatch and Pro-Med
30 November 2005

From Nial Moores

Dear Sir/Madam,

An amazing news release from the FAO, to be found at /

It includes the long quotation:

Juan Lubroth, FAO senior officer responsible for infectious animal diseases, commented (killing of wild birds in cities in order to control H5N1 outbreaks) "is unlikely to make any significant contribution to the protection of humans against avian influenza".

He added: "There are other, much more important measures to be considered that deserve priority attention. Fighting the disease in poultry must remain the main focus of attention. Wild bird species found in and around cities are different from the wetland waterfowl that have been identified as carriers of the avian influenza virus."

Here we see the FAO on the one hand apparently trying to accept that alarmist proclamations about spread of HPAI H5N1 by wild birds are somehow overstated, while at the same time trying to defend their spurious position that it is spread by wild birds after all!

As a significant and respected organisation, it is surely important for the FAO to be at least as as rigid and clear with their use of language and facts as others (like NGOs - who unsupported by massive funding and publicity machines, have worked tirelessly over the past months/years to ask the relevant questions to largely uninterested media).

Clearly, sometimes "the wild bird species found in and around cities" in the region are the same as "wetland waterfowl". Many cities have breeding colonies of Little Egret or Grey Heron, others of Great Cormorant, still others large numbers of wintering waterbirds.

The point is not that they are different species, but that up to now there is still no unambiguous evidence that infected wild birds carry highly pathogenic H5N1 long distances; there is no unambiguous evidence that wild birds have infected poultry with the virus (though there is plentiful strong evidence of secondary infection of scavenging wild bird species by infected poultry); there is not a single known case of wild birds infecting people.

It is extraordinarily irresponsible to speak only half-truths, so that the agency can keep having their cake while eating it.

Let us please hear from now much more from the FAO on how there have been no outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic H5N1 in migratory bird populations in East Asia after the self-limiting outbreaks in Mongolia in the summer; how patterns of outbreaks still have not and do not match patterns of wild bird migrations; how even in Europe, spread by wild birds remains but a poorly supported hypothesis, greatly weakened by evidence of spread by captive birds (for example into the UK and into Kuwait). Let us hear much more about investigations into cultural and agricultural practices, from merit release, through cock-fighting, through use of chicken manure as fertiliser in fish ponds.

Surely, these are the kinds of causes of spread that fall within the emit of FAO's expertise; that the FAO has responsible for informing the public about.


Nial Moores
Director, Birds Korea