Science News

To stop a virus, California has euthanized more than 1.2 million birds. Is it reckless or necessary?

Kerri Hand's backyard pens remain vacant days after state agents euthanized their chickens and turkey due to a virulent Newcastle disease outbreak. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Times

To stop the spread of virulent Newcastle disease, more than 1.2 million birds, mainly chickens, have been euthanized in heavily affected areas, some of which weren’t showing symptoms or hadn’t been infected yet.  An online video has created a backlash to the program. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has tried in vain for the past year to educate the public about the outbreak. But there is no central database of the estimated 100,000 backyard chicken owners in California. Instead, agency staff has visited almost 150,000 homes and dozens of feed stores and community events. They’ve given more than 100 presentations at churches and held almost 20 town hall meetings.