The trauma of breeders who have resigned from killing their livestock affected by bird flu by suffocation is yawning. Euthanasia teams overwhelmed.
After picking up the bodies of his 18,000 poultry, “Christian Drouin lay down in the dark” in shock. He had to kill his own livestock affected by the bird flu, which ravages farms in western France. “No euthanasia team was available, too many requests,” explains this breeder, installed in Essarts-en-Bocage, in the Vendée, gray hair in battle and dark circles under the eyes.
To avoid seeing his animals “die slowly”, the farmer resigned on the instructions of the vet to “cut the ventilation” to kill them more quickly by suffocation. “We picked up the chickens the next day from the neighbors. We buried them in a field nearby, in a hole that we sealed with lime, he tells AFP. A hydrogeologist had come in advance to validate the location of the pit.
“Then I lay down in the dark, stunned by what I had done,” Christian Drouin continues. His closest neighbor also lost all his chickens. “He came to see me, he cried. I fear for him.”
On Friday, 473 outbreaks of bird flu had been identified in the department, according to the French Ministry of Agriculture. In a few weeks, the Vendée was more affected than Landes (231 cases), a stronghold for ducks that has been regularly affected by bird flu since 2015. Claire (first name changed), breeder near La Roche-sur-Yon, saw her contaminated poultry “die in dozens”.
“We ended up cutting off the distribution of food and ventilation. We had a sleepless night. It was impossible to sleep as we knew what was going on in our buildings. (The next day) we discovered a floor strewn with corpses, ”she says. But “we should be done killing our chickens. By avoiding contact with the animal as much as possible.
As a general rule, poultry are killed individually by a veterinarian or collected in crates filled with carbon dioxide before being transported for destruction. Asked last week about slaughter by suffocation, the French agriculture minister, Julien Denormandie, had called for “not to generalize a few cases”, while acknowledging that this solution could be approved “in certain cases” regardless.
“State services are overwhelmed. It is up to the breeders to do the dirty work,” condemns Pascal Sachot, spokesman for the Confédération paysanne union in the Vendée. His farm has three buildings, each capable of accommodating up to 4,500 chickens. March, he has opened the doors every morning with the “ball in his stomach” for fear of finding feverish animals there.
To contain the epizootic, the authorities are preparing to empty the farms, including healthy animals. A depopulation “necessary” to start again on “healthy bases” according to the chairman of the Vendée Chamber of Agriculture, Joël Limouzin.
But a “heartbreak” for breeders who see their healthy animals go too early at the slaughterhouse, laments Benoît Aubineau, a member of the group “Sauve qui poule – Poitou”, which brings together small open-air producers from the Vendée and Two Sevres. Lately, the collective’s WhatsApp discussion has been overflowing with messages. “We went from 10 to 70 members in a few weeks. There is a real need not to be alone “, he emphasizes.
But a “heartbreak” for breeders who see their healthy animals go too early at the slaughterhouse, laments Benoît Aubineau, a member of the group “Sauve qui poule – Poitou”, which brings together small open-air producers from the Vendée and Two Sevres. Lately, the collective’s WhatsApp discussion has been overflowing with messages. “We went from 10 to 70 members in a few weeks. There is a real need not to be alone, ”emphasizes Benoît Aubineau.
Spared from bird flu at the moment, Cécile Charrier, a farmer in La Roche-sur-Yon, makes sure to hear from her unhappy neighbors. “We call to check that everyone is in a good mood. In the midst of disaster, we must stick together ”.