(MOTHERBOARD) – Nearly half a million turkeys and chickens were killed this week in Indiana after contracting a new strain of avian influenza called H7N8. This is a necessary step to stop the spread of the disease, but the methods used to kill some of the birds have drawn some criticism.
Late last year, the United States Department of Agriculture approved a controversial method of killing off sick birds called ventilation shutdown, as part of new safety protocols for controlling the spread of the virus. The practice requires farms to turn off the air systems and water supply in poultry barns, causing the birds to slowly overheat and suffocate. At the time, USDA spokesperson Lyndsay Cole told me ventilation shutdown would not be the preferred method for killing birds, and would be only okayed if it was the sole option for euthanizing infected birds within 24 hours of detection—a new deadline the USDA had set.