Hong Kong Admits Chicken Slaughter Was Botched

From Associated Press

Authorities conceded Friday that they had done a sloppy job killing off Hong Kong’s 1.3 million chickens after sightings of bedraggled birds that somehow survived the slaughter and of dogs scampering off with carcasses.

The government decided to perform the bird slaughter to eradicate a flu virus traced to chickens that has killed four people in the territory.

The H5N1 Type A influenza virus has sickened at least 15 people, including a new case confirmed Friday. Six possible cases also have been reported.


Scientists were testing a sampling of rats, cats and dogs to see whether other animals could have picked up the so-called bird flu virus from chewing on chicken corpses that were supposed to have been buried.

Television footage showed some chickens still strutting around after enduring what was supposed to have been a fatal gassing by carbon dioxide inside plastic bags.

The remains of some chickens were left in trash bags to fester instead of being carted off to a landfill. Television footage showed dogs pulling possibly tainted carcasses out of bags and fleeing with their finds, tails wagging.

Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa said shortages of staff and equipment hindered the government’s round-the-clock efforts this week to kill all chickens in a bid to stop the mysterious spread of the illness to humans.

The virus was previously known to infect only birds, and health officials are still trying to figure out just how the virus made the leap from fowl to humans.

“Improvement needs to be made, and we are going to make these improvements,” Tung said after an emergency meeting of the Executive Council, his top advisory board. “We are looking at these things very urgently.”



For three days beginning Monday, government workers stuffed hundreds of thousands of live chickens into bags and then pumped the bags full of gas, slitting birds’ throats when they ran out of gas. The government has extended its ban--imposed Christmas Eve--on chicken imports.

But one TV network showed a chicken peeking out from a torn garbage bag at a dump site. Another bird was seen wandering nearby.

Other photos depicted cages of live chickens on small farms, their owners still awaiting the arrival of government slaughter teams, and of carcasses spilled from torn garbage bags that were left on farms.

Health Director Dr. Margaret Chan acknowledged that the killing and disposal of chickens “could be done better.”

The Agriculture and Fisheries Department, which oversaw the slaughter at farms, said it will finish its work and look into complaints that chickens were left alive and carcasses unaccounted for. The department set up a hotline for such reports.