06 August 2004

From Today's New York Times

To the Editor:

Indeed, the United Nations should step up efforts to confront the avian flu crisis in Asia before it takes the world by storm ("The Enduring Avian Flu Problem," editorial, Aug. 4). But it is our penchant for international trade in birds—whether for eggs, meat, live poultry or pets—that already spins these local animal disease challenges into a complex web of global threats to agriculture, wildlife and human health.

In this year alone, avian flu outbreaks in Asia, Africa, Canada and the United States have inspired a dizzying array of international trade bans on poultry and pet birds, as well as calls for the killing of wild cranes in parts of Asia. Although disruptive, the bans are necessary because existing border controls and quarantines fail to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Because recent outbreaks have cost hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars and because current science predicts that avian flu is becoming more lethal, shouldn't we be asking whether any international trade in these animals is worth the risk? Do these niche-market profits for a few justify the financial and health risks borne by us all?

James D. Gilardi
Director, World Parrot Trust
Davis, Calif., Aug. 4, 2004

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