Chickens crammed together in a small cage

Billion Dollar Cost of the Global Bird Flu Outbreak

New report reveals animal losses and economic costs


London/Vienna, 21 September 2023 – The latest report from FAIRR Initiative shows the avian flu outbreak in the United States has resulted in approximately 40 million animal losses and economic costs from US$2.5 to US$3 billion. The report also highlights these significant economic losses are not only in the private sector but in the public sector as well.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, by the end of 2022, sixty-seven countries across five continents had reported highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks.

Dr Helena Wright, Policy Director at FAIRR Initiative, said, “The recent avian flu crisis has led to significant economic impacts for farmers, producers and workers as well as impacts on rising food prices around the world. With governments coming together to discuss a global pandemic treaty, it will be important to consider a preventative approach that recognises that prevention of pandemics is cheaper than response.”

FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, said that “now more than ever the global pandemic treaty must be a priority.”

“What FAIRR’s report clearly shows is that failing to protect animals is not only an ethical concern but has economic implications and poses public health concerns. Avian Influenza is spreading and evolving rapidly, both in birds and mammals. It seems lessons on the need for strategies to prevent pandemics early on have not been learned from the outbreak of COVID-19, with ineffective prevention strategies, control measures and lack of coordination at a global level.

Nina Jamal, FOUR PAWS' Head of Pandemics

“Recent studies suggest that three out of every four emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning they are transmissible between animals and humans. To stop the spread of novel zoonoses, preventing disease spread in the animal farming sector is essential. Factory farming of animals contributes significantly to the spread and mutation of diseases, increasing the risk of dangerous mutations that can jump from animals to humans and eventually among humans. What we must see globally is policy initiatives that are aligned with the One Health approach, tackling the drivers of disease outbreaks in farming, while shifting from large-scale intensive farms with high stocking density to small farms, which rely on high animal welfare standards to limit animal suffering and financial losses caused by outbreaks.”

In collaboration with FAIRR, a study from the University of Surrey examined how “poultry movement and density affect disease transmission” through a model which simulated the “spread of avian flu in a population of broiler chickens, finding that keeping birds in smaller flocks, where they have increased movement, results in fewer birds dying.” This finding may be particularly significant for adopting disease prevention techniques such as transitioning to farms with smaller flocks of birds situated further away from each other and kept in better conditions.

Jamal concluded, “Fundamentally, we need to reduce the number of farmed animals first and foremost. Without this central point nothing much will change. This should include reducing the density of intensive farms to limit viral spread between facilities alongside decentralising farming systems to limit viral spread.”


Industry Reinfected: Avian Flu: Spotlight on the Economic and Public Health Impacts of Avian Flu – White Paper:

Young chickens in factory farming



Click here

FOUR PAWS on Social Media

Stay up to date on this topic and on all FOUR PAWS activities on our social media channels:

or subscribe to FOUR PAWS International newsletter.


FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

Share now!