Press Release

USDA Sued for Incentivizing Mass Killings of Birds and Increasing Risk of Bird Flu

Press Release

USDA Sued for Incentivizing Mass Killings of Birds and Increasing Risk of Bird Flu

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A 2015 outbreak of bird flu cost taxpayers roughly $850 million, and potentially, their lives.

LOS ANGELESOn Monday, Farm Sanctuary, America’s premier farm animal sanctuary and advocacy organization, sued the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to challenge its irresponsible plan for controlling and responding to Highly Infectious Avian Influenza (“bird flu”), citing a 2015 outbreak of bird flu that led to the “depopulation” (mass killing) of approximately 50 million chickens and turkeys in 15 U.S. states and the expenditure of roughly $850 million in taxpayer funds to try to contain the disease. 

Farm Sanctuary and Mercy for Animals joined the federal lawsuit, which was originally brought by the Humane Society of the United States, filing an amended complaint in Los Angeles on July 27, 2020. The plaintiffs are accusing USDA, which spent approximately $200 million to reimburse companies for the 2015 mass killing, of incentivizing the cruel confinement of birds in factory farms and increasing the risk of disease outbreaks. 

“More than four million cases and 146,000 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 should be reason enough for USDA to stop funneling money into factory farming, which is a breeding ground for disease and increases risks for highly infectious zoonotic outbreaks like COVID-19,” said Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary. “Giving birds more space to move and engage in the barest minimum of natural behaviors is not only the right thing to do, it could potentially save hundreds of thousands of human lives and billions in taxpayer dollars.”

The lawsuit seeks to require the USDA to consider a plan to prevent another bird flu outbreak by tying federal funds to the adoption of production systems that would give birds more space and reduce the likelihood of a disease outbreak. The suit also demands that the agency be required to take an in-depth look at the disastrous environmental consequences of its short-sighted plan by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

As it stands, rather than developing a plan to prevent future outbreaks, the USDA encourages factory farms to confine animals in stressful, overcrowded conditions that wreak havoc on the environment and are ideal for the spread of disease. When infections proliferate, taxpayer funds are used for the mass killing of birds through grossly inhumane methods, and their bodies are buried in unlined pits or incinerated.

About Farm Sanctuary

Founded in 1986, Farm Sanctuary works to change how our society views and treats farm animals through rescue, education and advocacy. The organization provides lifelong care for animals rescued from abuse at sanctuary locations in New York and California; promotes compassionate vegan living; and advocates legal and policy reforms. To learn more about Farm Sanctuary, visit