Fowl! Bird Flu: It’s Not What You Think
From All Creatures Book and Video Review Guide

Author: Sherri J. Tenpenny

Reviewed by Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns (UPC)

On sale at

The poultry industry would like everyone to think that the avian influenza virus that is currently infecting migratory waterfowl and domestic chickens is the result of birds running wild in the fresh air and open skies. The way to control the virus is to lock up every domestic chicken, turkey and duck, and when that doesn’t work, exterminate them en masse and start over, ad infinitum. Between government subsidies, reimbursements and protective insurance policies, companies like Tyson and its Russian, Asian and South American allies can exterminate thousands, even millions, of birds without losing a cent.

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, an osteopathic medical doctor with an integrative medical practice located in Cleveland, Ohio and the author of Fowl!, is one of a growing group of reputable people who argue that the big poultry companies and the genetics and pharmaceutical conglomerates of which they’re a part “are positioned to capitalize on the opportunity presented by bird flu” to industrialize poultry farming worldwide.

Dr. Tenpenny shares the view presented by GRAIN, an international nongovernmental organization focusing on agriculture, in its February 2006 report “Fowl play: The poultry industry’s central role in the bird flu crisis.” GRAIN maintains that wild and free roaming birds “are not fuelling the current wave of bird flu outbreaks stalking large parts of the world.” The geographical spread of bird flu does not match migratory bird routes and seasons so much as it matches proximity to industrialized poultry farms and trade routes.

Nor is the mass-killing of birds confined to “traditional” cultures, whose brutal live burials and live burnings of birds are glimpsed in the news. Chickens, turkeys and ducks on North American factory farms, like those in China, Thailand, India and elsewhere, are routinely, and with equal brutality, “culled” (exterminated) to control the virulent strains of avian flu and other transmittable diseases that rage in the squalid confines of the football-field long, sunless poultry sheds. As noted by GRAIN, “Rare are photos of the booming transnational poultry industry. There are no shots of its factory farms hit by the virus, and no images of its overcrowded trucks transporting live chickens or its feed mills converting ‘poultry byproducts’ [diseased dead birds and manure] into chicken feed.”

Planetary Poisons and Bird Flu

Dr. Tenpenny probes even further. She argues in Fowl! that toxic residues of dioxin and thousands of other poisonous chemicals added through nuclear radiation and nuclear waste are contributing to illness in migratory birds, domestic fowl, and humans. In particular she cites the Vietnam era “Agent Orange,” coupled with irresponsible environmental policies in Southeast Asia, China and other parts of the world, including the toxic waste dumps in which chickens are raised. Instead of blaming wild birds for bird flu, she says:

More likely, the horrific living conditions of industrially raised chickens and the exposure of wild birds to substantial environmental toxicities – including pesticides – have suppressed the immune system of both sets of birds. During long migrations, the birds undergo stressful conditions that utilize energy reserves. Increased utilization of fat stores will mobilize the chemicals that are stored in fat, creating acute poisoning of the birds. The combination of environmental toxicities – dioxin, radiation, and other POPs [persistent organic pollutants], combined with H5N1 – has led to deadly inflammation in the tissues in both types of fowl, leading to their demise. Wild birds and domestic chickens may well be described as the victims of bird flu, not the vectors, and H5N1 is a contributing factor to the demise of birds loaded with toxicities rather than the causative factor. What is happening to the birds around the world should be serving as a resounding wake-up call for the foul condition of the planet Earth (pp. 195-196). What About Vaccines?

Vaccines are part of the pollution. The pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Tenpenny and others assert, is using bird flu to rev up the vaccine business by creating a wave of hysteria so people will rush out and buy Tamiflu or its evil twin, products more likely to add to their body’s toxic burden than save them from the flu. In lively prose, she charts the history of flu epidemics, pseudo-epidemics and vaccine promotions, past and present, on the part of government and industry armed with free publicity from the media. “Hundreds of millions of dollars,” she writes, “have been lavished by Congress to ensure every part of the vaccine development process is in place for the new bird flu vaccine: Development grants, tax credits, advanced purchase commitments, and most importantly, laws that will absolve the companies from all product liability issues that may arise from use of an unsafe product” (pp. 67-68).

To learn how vaccines are made, read the chapter “Influenza Vaccines: What’s In That Needle?” Everything from formaldehyde to mercury is involved, not to mention the “accidental” viruses that get loaded into the shot. Flocks of chickens are kept in sterile laboratory cages to produce the tens of millions of fertile eggs in which influenza viruses are grown. When the embryos’ lungs are sufficiently infected, the eggs – with the live birds in them – are placed in coolers and subsequently centrifuged. The final product contains residual egg proteins, so people with egg allergies are advised not to get a flu shot.

What Can We Do?

Dr. Tenpenny writes: “After detailing this vivid description of the manufacture of the influenza vaccine, the thought of injecting this into your body – or the body of your baby – should be repugnant” (p. 72). What else can a person do besides avoiding flu shots and rejecting the hype? “Clean up your diet,” she says. Get rid of the white sugar and flour, food additives and genetically modified products. But she shies from the most important thing - eliminating the repugnant ingestion of poultry and eggs, the mass consumption of which products is the root source of bird flu, many human illnesses, and a guarantee that the mass exterminations and other vicious treatment of wild and domestic birds will not end ever.

At the same time, Dr. Tenpenny urges people to get publicly active, and her list of things to do includes “animal rights” and “humane handling of poultry.” Citing information from United Poultry Concerns, and encouraging readers to support United Poultry Concerns, she makes it clear that the life of birds on factory farms is horrible: “Unknown to most, chickens have a carefully regulated social life and a cohesive social structure; extreme crowding stresses the birds and increases the possibility of illness. Beyond the crushing confinement, conditions within most [poultry houses] are filthy, forcing birds to be reared in complete squalor” (p. 171).

Dr. Tenpenny was a featured speaker at United Poultry Concerns’ Forum in Columbus, Ohio in April on “Using the Media Effectively to Promote Farmed Animal and Vegetarian Issues.” She spoke vividly on issues raised in her book. Having heard Dr. Tenpenny, I can vouch that she is a terrific, very professional and informative lecturer who welcomes speaking engagements. She’s been very kind in acknowledging the contribution of United Poultry Concerns to her understanding of chickens and their plight. Just after the conference, she wrote to me, “Before I came across your information for the book, I was clueless about the farm animal issue. I never gave it much of a thought, and really didn’t think of chickens as having feelings.” I’m glad she found us.

And I like what she says at the end of FOWL!. “Speaking out,” she says, “is not being a zealot or a fanatic. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry were all branded extremists and radicals by agents of the British Crown. If your friends label you as such, you are in pretty good company.” There you have it. Stick up for chickens, don’t eat animals, go vegan, and tell the world why.

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