02/28/06 A Letter to Mate Brstilo

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Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management
Bureau of Veterinary
Dr. Sc. Mate Brstilo
Ulica grada Vukovara 78
10000 Zagreb

February 28, 2006

Dear Mr Brstilo,

We appeal to you, prompted by your Ministry's recent killing of domestic poultry in the area infected by bird flu, in the three-kilometer radius around Nature Park Pantana near the town Trogir. On that occasion, Ministry spokesman admitted that the Ministry issued a false commencement time of the so called "euthanasia" (i.e. decapitating without detachment, or neck-breaking, for the purposes of preventing the public from seeing disturbing images of animal killings). In spite of that, the media discovered that the killing continued after the officially disclosed time, that greater number of birds has been killed than was announced in the beginning, and that veterinarians have killed chickens and other birds by beating them with the sticks on their necks, which is an animal torture offence, and because of which the Animal Friends organization filed a criminal complaint.

In light of the recent appearance of bird flu in Europe, Asia and Africa, and in Croatia also, we are concerned and indignant because of manner in which the problem is handled here in Croatia. Despite last year's experiences with bird flu, it is inconceivable to us that the Ministry opted again for unnecessary and unreasonable brutal killing of healthy animals instead of putting domestic birds in due quarantine, issuing high monetary penalties for quarantine offenders and inspecting risk areas.

With regard to most recent bird killings, we have received a number of calls and e-mails from citizens who are horrified by the manner in which the animals were killed and media censorship in informing the public. It is not logical to the public that there is no killing of wild birds that are dying from bird flu, while at the same time, healthy domestic birds, in which no case of bird flu has been deteceted, are beaten to death with sticks or killed by breaking their necks.

As a member of International Office for Epizootic, the leading international organization in the field of animal protection during animal execution for the purposes of disease control, Croatia is committed to following guidance from that Office in cases of extreme necessity for the purposes of disease control. Beating birds with a stick, which is not only animal torture but is also a potential danger for human health where an infected animal bleeds, presents a violation of OIE guidance, which demands humane methods of putting animals to sleep, so they can be protected from unnecessary infliction of pain and suffering.

If it is really necessary, and we do not think that it really was in this case, animals should be euthanized instantaneously or with a prior anaesthesia so they can stay unconscious till their death. Veterinarian inspectors are obligated to supervise animal welfare in cases of contagious diseases appearance, and those who perform euthanasia must be qualified and competent to put animals to sleep in as painless a manner as possible. And if it was necessary, which was not the case here, euthanasia could have been carried out very simply and cheaply with inexpensive gas anaesthetics. Croatia can be led by experiences in the United Kingdom (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/badgers-tbcontrols/reff.pdf), about which you are informed yourself, as a result of your participation at last week's conference on animal protection, organized by TAIEX.

The need for veterinarian supervision is not only a matter of animal welfare, because uncontrolled killing also means a possibility of increased risk of spreading the disease. Therefore, burying or torching alive birds, as well as beating them to death with sticks should be absolutely prohibited for animal welfare as well as citizens' safety.

Taking all of this into consideration, we expect you to promptly request an investigation within the Ministry, in order to determine responsibility for offenses and violations of the laws related to present cases of "euthanizing" chickens and other poultry. We expect you to provide the media with unobstructed access to information, because covering up the truth can lead only to even bigger panic in public and distrust to transparency of Ministry proceedings. We also demand that the prevention from bird flu is primarily carried out through quarantines and supervision, and by killing of healthy chickens only when necessary and only with gas anaesthetics. For the sake of true public information, we also expect you to use word "euthanasia" only in cases of truly painless killings.

Considering great concern from Croatian public and international community for terminating the danger of bird flu spreading, we hope that your Ministry will approach that problem by taking in consideration its reputation, as well as animal welfare and human health.

At this occasion we wish to thank you for your present commitment related to animal welfare and protection, and to inform you that we are open for cooperation with respect to all aspects of animal welfare protection.

Luka Oman
Animal Friends


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