California Killed 1.2 Million Birds To Stop a Virus. Pet Owners Say They Were Terrorized.

The euthanasia campaign may be necessary to prevent the spread of the Newcastle disease, but bird owners say that it's being carried out in a cruel manner.


HD Download

Kerri Hand became a chicken owner for the eggs, but then she fell in love. A retired cop who lives in rural southern California, Hand and her children came to view their flock as part of the family.

In late 2018, Hand returned home to find a notice stuck on her door from the California Department of Food and Agriculture stating that there was an outbreak of a highly deadly avian virus in her neighborhood, which can wipe out massive flocks. State and federal health officials had ordered all birds across several counties under immediate quarantine, including Hand's.

To date, officials have searched thousands of homes and farms and identified just under 500 infections. After determining that quarantine wasn't enough, they ordered the mandatory euthanasia of over 1.2 million birds in high-risk areas surrounding the infections, including healthy birds. The euthanasia campaign may be necessary to prevent the spread of the Newcastle disease, but according to the bird owners who spoke with Reason, health officials have carried out their duties in a cruel manner, leaving bird-owning families with lasting emotional scars.

Hand complied with the state's quarantine orders for months, and paid to have her birds tested by a veterinarian—tests that came back negative for Virulent Newcastle Disease. But as she and her family were preparing to celebrate Good Friday, a team of police and state workers dressed in biohazard suits unexpectedly arrived at her house, with a search warrant and an order to kill her family's flock. Hand's children watched their pets die.

Workers kill birds by breaking their necks, shooting them with firearms, or suffocating them with CO2 gas—methods that officials maintain are humane. But Hand disagrees. She recalls that workers placed her birds in a trash can with no viewing window, forcing them to lift the lid to check if the birds had died. Each time, oxygen leaked in, prolonging the process.

Hand recorded and shared live video of the slaughter in a Facebook group she created called Save Our Birds, and it went viral. The group gained thousands of members, and Hand began organizing volunteers to show up at kills and film on their phones. She alleges they've documented scores of abuses by state workers and police.

Produced, written, shot, and edited by Justin Monticello 

Camera by John Osterhoudt

Music: "White Hats" by Wayne Jones; "I've Just Had an Apostrophe!" by Spazz Cardigan; "Butchers" by Silent Partner; "Versace Beat" by Yung Logos; "Gaia in Fog" by Dan Bodan; "Grasshopper" by Quincas Moreira; "Pinckney" by The 126ers

NEXT: The First Amendment and Privacy: Free Speech Rules (Episode 9)

HD Download California Pets Public Health Chicken Virus Animals Animal Rights

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

Please to post comments

52 responses to “California Killed 1.2 Million Birds To Stop a Virus. Pet Owners Say They Were Terrorized.

  1. >>health officials … scores of abuses by state workers and police


  2. California is such a effing mess

    1. No sympathy for anyone who lives there.

      1. Really? No sympathy for millions of people that had nothing to do with this?

      2. You are irrelevant after penning such an asinine statement.

  3. Livestock aren’t pets. I also don’t care how they died. The parents should have taken them on car ride if it was too traumatic. Now I do hope CA is providing just compensation per the Constitution.

    1. The parents should have taken them on car ride if it was too traumatic.

      Disagree. I’d ask the question, “Do you think the government considers us a pet or livestock?” and let the teaching moments ensue.

    2. What an ass you are.

      1. The difference between ‘livestock’ and ‘pet’ is in the eye of the beholder – and chickens especially tend to fall in-between categories. I know, I raise layers myself.

      2. It absolutely does make a difference how they died. Don’t be inhumane.

      3. They were killed by an overbearing state agency with nothing better to do so they pounced on this ‘epidemic’ like bored cops in a small town respond to a shoplifting call.

      1. Sorry but unless this wasn’t an actual public health crisis then CA was right to kill the chickens as quickly as possible, with no regard for the chicken. Human life is far more important to protect.

        1. IANAC, but I don’t think Newcastle disease is a threat to humans, only other birds. So California was simply deciding that in order to save the lives of these birds over here, those birds over there must die. Given that those birds over there had human owners and were therefore easier to kill, I’m not sure that it was the flocks of the commercial poultry farmers they were trying to save, as would be the case in most saner areas of the country, but actually the wild birds they value higher than domestic species of just about every other animal including Man.

          1. Thanks, may have to revisit my initial thought on it. I figured human lives were at risk and wasn’t going to shed one tear over chickens; it always ruins the crispiness of the batter.

          2. It can cause a mild flu-like illness in humans.

        2. Yeh, my pet’s life is far more more important to me than your life will ever be.

      2. 1. The difference between ‘livestock’ and ‘pet’ is in the eye of the beholder – and chickens especially tend to fall in-between categories. I know, I raise layers myself.

        How *badly* do you want the state of California *trying* to see things through your eyes?

        2. It absolutely does make a difference how they died. Don’t be inhumane.

        Again, if sudden and relatively painless death is inhumane, do you really want the state of CA to seek out alternatives?

      3. No, it is defined by the USDA. USDA only gives grants for studying livestock areas not pets.

  4. CO2 is a standard procedure for killing lab animals.

    But I am confused. They think that pets are a reservoir of virus in the context of wild flocks? WTF. Is the idea that a flock of wild birds is going to infect a pet, which is then going to infect a different flock of wild birds? But the wild birds who hang out with pets are not going to infect each other?

    This makes no sense.

    1. “”CO2 is a standard procedure for killing lab animals.””

      Should there have been an environmental impact study before they approved the CO2?

      1. Where is AOC when you need her?

    2. This makes no sense.

      The public is the committee and the CDFA is just executing the wishes of the committee as best it knows how. Not to portray them as victims, they should quit and/or refuse to do the job but, you’re expecting sense out of the CA electorate/bureaucracy?

    3. Wild birds aren’t spreading the disease, primarily chickens and other poultry or waterfowl, then spread bird to bird or on clothing or equipment. Wild birds are certainly susceptible to the disease but the epidemiologists working this disease would be able to tell the difference in the pattern of spread. I’m a scientific type person and this article is a little wack on that front.

  5. How awful.

    This sounds unconscionable not just from a basic private property perspective but from a moral one as well.

    California is acting like a shit hole for real.

    Hope justice finds its way.

    1. By ‘shit hole’ and ‘justice’ I mean the over top enforcement and no compensation.

      It’s the least they can do.

      I get this was done for safety reasons but you can’t trample on people this way. Also, it’s unfortunate it happened on Good Friday which is a Holy day for Christians.

      Also. How did animal activists react to it?

      1. “”Also. How did animal activists react to it?””

        They put their head in the sand when Trump signed the PACT act.

      2. [quote]Also, it’s unfortunate it happened on Good Friday which is a Holy day for Christians.[/quote]

        Perhaps the virus is hindu.

  6. At least they didn’t kill the birds by damaging their brains with acid.

    (Given my own experiments with the effects of acid on my brain, I’d have to guess it’d be a better way to go.)

    1. When are we gonna get the much anticipated Jerry Skids origin story?

    1. You just gave SIV a very confused boner.

  7. First they came for the chickens, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a chicken.

    Then they came for the …………..

    You all see where this is going.

    1. If you didn’t speak out, you were, in fact, a chicken.

      1. I’m pretty sure if he were a chicken, he would have been one of the ones squawking the loudest over this unconscionable trampling of his rights.

            1. Ain’t nuthin wrong with Chokin yer Ckikken


      2. “Nobody…… calls me chicken!”

    2. Then SIV came all over the chickens.

  8. Libertarians are always shocked when they find out just how much authority the government can wield during a public health crisis.

    Part of the problem is that there are few Americans alive today who grew up facing the possibility of death due to disease or infection (other than some immigrants from especially poor countries). It has created a cultural amnesia as to just how dangerous the microbial world can be if not properly controlled.

    This collective amnesia manifests itself in the form of vaccine denial, or refusal to control animal vector populations by citing inhumane treatment or environmental concerns.

    Unfortunately, diseases don’t know about the Constitution, nor are they aware of the imminent Libertarian Moment. If we as a society fail to control them then we will pay a heavy price, regardless of how unfair we may think thd process is.

    1. You are probably a fan of mandatory vaccinations like Ron Bailey. Fuck off, slaver.

      1. Your betters will vaccinate you and your progeny, clinger. If needed we will sterilize you and tax your inheritance at 100%. Get on board the future train.

        1. Is this a new parody account? Not bad. BTW, I am a fan of vaccinations. I am just not a fan of mandatory vaccinations.

      2. How would a libertarian solve the problem of people voluntarily opting out of vaccinations causing a lack of herd immunity and endangering the lives of the minority who can’t get vaccines for health reasons?

        Surely libertarians don’t have a problem with public schools banning unvaccinated kids to protect the safety of the rest? What about a registration for parents of voluntarily unvaccinated children so they can be collectively sued when kids die due to a lack of herd immunity? Jailing parents whose voluntarily unvaccinated kids die from preventable diseases? Didn’t the parents violate that kid’s rights and safety?

        1. Well, if the kids are vaccinated then they have nothing to fear from unvaccinated kids.

          1. This is incorrect. Some vaccinated can still contract, and spread disease. Some have legitimate health issues which does not allow them to be vaccinated. This is the kind of thinking that gets us into trouble with things like measles.

  9. George Orwell kept poultry on an English farmstead while writing Animal Farm, and commented on not being able to cook and eat family pet geese. But when I saw the headline the thought that struck was the California legislature must’ve gone viral on global warmunism and decided to put up windmills until they have a bird-free Silent Spring.

  10. I looked at the advocacy group cited in the article…lol…SOB. I can understand being upset and angry over losing pet birds (disclosure: i’ve never had a bird as a pet) but the lady cited in the article is pretty wackadoo. I saw one video where she just yells names at the workers and seems to think shes a constitutionalist. One of the videos she seems to send her kids outside and release her horses just so she can freak out…you can hear her say it in the video. This is not the libertarian cause i’m looking for…more wacko Californians. Just let them do their jobs to get it over with.

  11. Thank you very, very, very much Justin, Kerri, family, and friends to help make this truth finally come out in the open media! I don’t believe there is a disease, as nobody has seen any test results, or proof, but government sure needs their land to build more mega warehouses, and million $ homes for their big $ donors, so they inhumanely kill millions for no good reason. May God help us cus our corrupted government and law enforcement sure can’t!
    2 Thessalonians 1 :7-9

    1. So its a conspiracy by the government, using a chicken disease, to buy more warehouses and expensive homes??? You MUST be from Cali with that kind of nonsense.

      1. Watch the many live videos on youtube/SOB from the thousands of victims with more than enough proof this is no conspiracy but corruption, just like 2003, 1971. Newcastle disease was made into vaccines in 70’s and now is an anti cancer drug for multi billion $ pharmo industry. Only takes a lil common sense to figure out if you have any. NOT ONE TEST RESULT OR PROOF but plenty of mega warehouses/million $ homes, etc. being built in same areas!

        1. If you thought you were pleading a case to make yourself sound less coo coo (yes, that’s a pun), you have failed. Geez, let those people do their jobs.

  12. 1.2 million dead… What will it take for people to eventually fight back?

  13. Reason really needed to talk to some poultry veterinarians and poultry scientists before posting this emotional drivel. The disease makes California poultry and poultry products from the quarantine area unsalable. Wild birds in the state have so far tested negative – but the disease is endemic in Mexico, and entered via smuggled fighting cocks brought in from there. Every bird within a quarter mile of a case is euthanized as the disease spreads through the air; the USDA does not want the disease to be established in the US. The epidemic continues because people like the pet owners in this article insist on resisting compliance, and moving birds around to hide them. This has gone on for eighteen months, and hatcheries and egg producers are having serious financial losses and even going out of business. Even if one’s birds test negative, if they are within 1/4 mile of a case they have to be euthanized. By the time a bird tests positive it has exposed the entire flock and possibly every bird within that radius, which just causes the disease to proliferate outwards.

  14. This is so dumb! Where are the animal activists? My pets and dogs are as important as any human being!