Home » Uncategorized » CULLING OF WILD CHICKENS: Fake news or the real McCoy in AVA’s latest spin?

CULLING OF WILD CHICKENS: Fake news or the real McCoy in AVA’s latest spin?

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(photo credit: The Online Citizen)

 

“FIRST up on our list is Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore‘s (AVA) new reason for culling chickens (or was it *gasp* red junglefowl?) In a letter to Today’s Voices page, Dr Yap Him Hoo, director-general of the AVA, says that the birds were culled because of the risk of bird flu due to rising populations getting infected by migratory birds.

Dr Yap said that media reports had given the wrong impression that the birds were killed because of complaints about noise, when in fact it was the noise complaints that drew AVA’s attention to a rising risk of bird flu.

No mention was made of why the clarification came only two weeks after the first news reports. No word of the clarification was published in ST. ” (Feb 14, 2017 09.02AM |

***

 

Nevertheless, if that is so, it begs asking whether the AVA has in recent weeks or months raised any public alarm or updates in respect of ‘a RISING risk of bird flu’ vis a vis the wild chickens in our urban jungle?
Based on what one finds as of today (12 February 2017) in AVA’s own website,  it hadn’t:see below and this link to AVA on bird flu
Some relevant Q&A information from the AVA site is reproduced below.
Note in particular the 3rd Q&A – Is it dangerous for me to come into contact with stray chickens around my estate?”
 1.
Will crows and other common birds in Singapore such as pigeons and mynahs pose a threat to us?
Singapore is free from bird flu. AVA and the National Parks Board conduct regular checks on migratory birds which can be carriers. AVA and the National Environment Agency also conduct regular checks on crows, mynahs and pigeons. So far, no bird flu virus has been detected.
 2.
Bird flu is usually spread by migratory birds. Is it safe to go to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve or other parks and reservoirs?

Singapore is free from bird flu. It is safe to visit Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and other parks and reservoirs, as it is highly unlikely that visitors would catch avian flu from wild birds.

Only infected chickens have been known to spread the disease to people who have come in close contact with them. Park visitors would not come in close contact with the wild birds at Sungei Buloh. They view the birds at a distance with their binoculars and telescopes.

In addition, AVA and NParks have an on-going surveillance programme for bird flu in wild birds at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. AVA collects blood samples and swabs from trapped wild birds for testing. To date, no bird flu has been detected.

 3.
Is it dangerous for me to come into contact with stray chickens around my estate?
 

Singapore is free from bird flu. It is highly unlikely that the stray chickens have bird flu. Practice good hygiene habits and wash your hands thoroughly with soap if you come into contact with any poultry. 

You can also call the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority at 1800-476 1600 if you come across any stray or dead chickens.
 So what is the public to make of this latest “clarification” from the AVA Chief? It has clarified nothing and in fact adds to the litany of poorly crafted responses to an already indignant public, given that his agency seems so incapable of providing straight and direct-to-the-point answers so far?
Flowing from what is presently on the AVA website on avian flu and the culling of the chickens, there are a few questions that the AVA should clarify:
a. The AVA has been saying in its own Q&A that”It is highly unlikely that the stray chickens have bird flu.” So can the AVA account for its change of mind regarding the level of avian flu threat posed by the jungle chicken? If so, why isn’t the AVA website updated to reflect the changed situation to alert Singaporeans? Its Q&A is still maintaining that “It is highly unlikely that the stray chickens have bird flu.”
b. Importantly, did the AVA send the culled chickens from Sin Ming to the laboratory to check for the presence or otherwise of avian flu? If not, why not? Since the AVA has already been testing the blood samples of wild birds, pigeons, mynah to keep tabs on them, there seems NO REASON not to include the wild chickens in the monitoring programme, especially now that the agency has raised the spectre of bird flu threat from them?
c. On what scientific basis is the AVA going to proceed now with the rest of the wild chicken population on the island? Systematically culling them all in view of “rising risk”? For that matter, what about the pigeons, crows, mynahs, sparrows, and other wild birds? Although the culling had presented the AVA with a golden opportunity to confirm (or otherwise) whether the culled chickens had the disease or were free of it, it had apparently not bothered to do so. Just imagine, it spite of what AVA is now claiming as its reason for the culling, it appeared not interested in nor appreciated the importance of following up with laboratory testing of the culled chickens for the virus, something that any competent public health agency would have a vested interest in in wanting to know, to find the evidence if any, and therefore add to its knowledge base about the spread or otherwise of the virus locally among the wild chickens and to decide from there what to do next. Surely, this is vital input towards the formulation of the overall disease control and management measures being contemplated for the wild chickens and other fauna on the island?  Instead, it has apparently chosen to remain blind – so that it could give the same reason again to slaughter some more of these wild chickens? It would be unbelievably lackadaisical on AVA’s part if that is the case!
Or, could it be that the AVA has actually examined the culled chickens for bird flu, and found none? And is keeping silent now for fear of the repercussions from the public and relevant NGOs? Would we ever know?   

 

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