London (December 15, 2022) - Animal Justice Project  activists have, in the early hours of this morning, climbed the DEFRA HQ in Westminster wearing hazmat suits to unfurl a giant 15ft x 9ft banner calling for an urgent end to animal agriculture due to its link to pandemics and animal suffering.
IMAGES: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAjc1e (photos being added throughout the morning)
Animal Justice Project demands that the UK Government open a dialogue about ending animal agriculture, and take 3 meaningful steps towards a plant-based food system:
Animal Justice Project says the government must act urgently given the current catastrophic bird flu situation and the mass suffering for animals caused by intensive farming, which accounts for a staggering 80 percent of all animal agriculture here in the UK .
The pressure group emphasises that we are living with the largest Avian Influenza (bird flu) outbreak ever recorded , with the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain spreading through bird populations at an unprecedented rate. Over 3.8 million birds  within the UK have lost their lives to the virus from the disease itself or through culling, including over half of the 1.3 million turkeys destined for the Christmas table this winter . In the EU, at least 400,000 free-living birds have also lost their lives to the virus, via 2,600 outbreaks . Cases are rising and they did not, for the first time, cease in the summer months this year .
A staggering three-quarters of newly-emerging infectious diseases originated in animals  before mutating and transferring to humans. H5N1 can easily be caught through bodily fluid containing a miniscule amount of its pathogens  and transferred between any animal. For example, birds coming into contact with fecal waste or farm and abattoir operatives carrying the pathogens on their skin or clothing.
Overcrowded farms act as breeding grounds for pandemics . On Intensive Poultry Unit (IPU)s , where around 95 per cent of chickens are reared , the strain may be passed onto over 40,000 other birds in each shed. The number of industrial-sized pig and poultry units in the UK has jumped with the growing demand for cheap meat.
Research shows that the pathogenicity of H5N1 could become airborne after just 3-5 mutations , making it easily transmissible between mammals, including humans. So far there have been 456 human fatalities to H5N1 worldwide between 2003 and 2022, out of 868 cases ; its mortality rate in humans is approximately 50%. UN epidemiologists have warned this number could rise to up to 150 million  if measures aren’t taken to prevent it from spreading.
Hope Wetherall, Animal Justice Project Campaigner says: “Activists today are braving the elements and dizzying heights to highlight the inaction of our government on the urgent and catastrophic outbreak of bird flu that is tearing through intensive chicken sheds at lightning speed, as well as other animal agriculture-causing diseases. Modern agriculture causes both immense suffering and death to animals, and a very real risk to humans, yet we continue to see no real action taken by the politicians other than declaring avian influenza prevention zones and mass culling - actions that fail to target the source of the problem. It is imperative that government bodies such as DEFRA take preventative and meaningful action NOW.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
INTERVIEWS / FURTHER INFORMATION
Hope Wetherall, Campaigner - M: +44 (0)7516 427149 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ayton Cooper, Campaigns Manager - M: + 44 (0) 7512 037157 E: email@example.com