Mass culling of poultry to limit the spread of bird flu is not an acceptable method of control, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) at a meeting in Paris, France, last week (7-8 April).
Instead, the two organisations are urging governments and farmers to vaccinate birds against the disease. Their previous calls for vaccination were not as strong as this one.
The insistence follows a realisation that killing large numbers of birds is unlikely to eliminate the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus. The virus is widespread in wild and domestic bird populations, meaning it will continue to re-emerge no matter how many birds are killed.
The organisations say that "for ethical, ecological and economical reasons", culling should no longer be used as a primary means of control.
Previously, some Asian governments preferred culling because they feared that vaccinating birds would merely eliminate symptoms, allowing the virus to spread undetected.
Participants in the Paris meeting recognised that many countries are not able to fund a vaccination programme. They called for US$100-120 million in aid over three to five years to help Asian countries with this.