Intensive farming, bastion of animal welfare

On a protected farm, intensive livestock farming is a barrier to the spread of diseases such as African swine fever and Avian flu – the opposite of what animal rights propaganda wants us to believe.

At the end of 2021, the cases of Avian flu affected some poultry farms in Lombardy and Veneto regions. Then, at the beginning of 2022, African swine fever on the border between Piedmont and Liguria. In the first case, millions of animals were sacrificed to prevent the disease from spreading further. The virus is currently isolated only in wild boars, but with the fear of its possible entry into farms, which would result in a catastrophe for the entire swine production chain.

Before going any further, it is necessary to remember that African swine fever in no way affects humans but animals only. Similar considerations for Avian flu– although it can rarely affect humans, it is not transmitted with poultry meat, which must be consumed after cooking.

Some like to make us believe that this series of health alarms in farms is due to the high concentration of animals in “intensive farms“. But the opposite is accurate, and we see why.

On a #ProtectedFarm, #IntensiveLivestockFarming is a barrier to the spread of diseases such as #AfricanSwineFever and #AvianFlu. Click To Tweet

Let’s start with Avian flu, a disease that can be supported by several viral strains, some of which are highly pathogenic. When one of these viruses manages to overcome the biosecurity defences of the farms, trouble starts. The virus quickly passes from one animal to another, and there is no cure for it. Mortality is high, production is compromised, and the continuation of activities is impossible.

The measures to eradicate the disease are draconian. In infected areas, it is essential to sacrifice the animals and delimit a perimeter of many kilometres, where all activities are suspended. You cannot sell animals or even buy them, except with special permits and under close supervision of the veterinary services. Only after ascertaining the absence of the virus for a reasonable number of weeks will the activities be able to resume slowly.

Among the first preventive measures taken in these cases is a ban on outdoor farming when there are positive animals in wildlife. Because the Avian flu virus travels with wild birds and through the migratory birds, it can move even for hundreds of kilometres. Then, once it arrived, it used every means to move from one farm to another, helped by excellent resistance to the external environment.

The #AfricanSwineFever in no way affects humans but #animals only. About the #AvianFlu: it can rarely affect humans, it is not transmitted with #poultry #meat, to be consumed after cooking. Click To Tweet

It can withstand for over 30 days during the cold season in favourable humidity conditions. This is how it manages to overcome even the strict biosecurity measures typically used on farms. Earlier than Italy, it happened in other countries close to us, such as France and Germany, and even earlier in many countries in Eastern and Northern Europe.

Not very different is what happens with African swine fever. We are also faced with a virus that leaves no escape and causes high mortality for animals. The “plague-spreaders” are wild animals, no longer birds, but the wild boars, a natural reservoir of this virus.

The fact that many pigs died due to the virus alarmed the whole pig meat industry. If the virus were to enter a farm, the blocking of the activities could even compromise the export of cured meats and sausages. As in the case of poultry, one of the first measures to stop the virus was a ban on keeping pigs outdoors, forcing the culling of animals in the wild and semi-wild system. The chances of contact with potentially infected wild boars are too high.

The #AvianFlu #virus travels with wild birds and through the #MigratoryBirds, so it can move even for hundreds of kilometers. Click To Tweet

In their different expressions, these two health emergencies have the same denominator: outdoor breeding. Indoor farms, better known as intensive farms, where animals are better protected from the aggression of pathogens, thus demonstrate all their effectiveness in preserving animals’ health. In other words, only intensive animal husbandry can provide the animals with welfare conditions, as health is a prerequisite.

A further demonstration that intensive livestock farming is a bastion of animal welfare and not the other way around. And it is thanks to the immediate measures put in place by the veterinary services that Avian flu and African swine fever viruses could be prevented from spreading, protecting sectors that associate a solid social value with the economic and strategic importance.


Professional journalist, graduated in veterinary medicine, director of journals dedicated to animal husbandry and editor in chief of journals in the agricultural sector, he has held coordination positions in publishing companies. Author of books on animal breeding, he is involved in the divulgation of technical, political and economic subjects of interest to the livestock sector.