Intensively reared turkeys are particularly prone to a number of diseases such as:


The selective breeding for rapid weight gain, along with the use of high nutrient feed, has caused many turkeys to be unable to support their own weight. The large size of male breeding turkeys provokes lameness and infections of leg and hip joints, causing chronic leg pain (4). Lameness can also be caused by foot ulcerations from turkeys standing on wet, dirty litter.  
Turkey Rhinotracheitis (TRT)

This is an acute respiratory disease caused by a pneumovirus with synptons of coughing, sneezing and sinusitis which can make the face look swollen. Secondary bacterial infection, with organisms such as E.coli or Pasteurella, can follow and leads to high mortality. Any disease causing diarrhoea and wet litter can have a drastic effect on the ability to make a full recovery. If a flock becomes infected, antibiotics are used to minimise the effects of secondary infection. A live vaccine is available commercially and is usually applied by spray in the first 10 days of life. However, this is not always totally effective and some outbreaks still occur (3).  
Bacterial infections

The bacterium E.coli is always present in the digestive tract of poultry but most strains are non-pathogenic. Coli septicaemia is one of a small number of pathogenic strains and it is suggested that male turkeys may be more susceptible to this than females, especially when under severe stress (6). Intensively stocked farms mean bacteria can spread easily through flocks. Salmonella and Campylobacter are widespread in broiler farms and frequent causes of food poisoning in humans.
Bird Flu

Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease affecting the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous system of many bird species. It is caused by a Type A influenza virus. There are two types of avian influenza virus; low pathogenic (LPAI) and highly pathogenic (HPAI). Within the LPAI types there is evidence that certain H5 and H7 viruses may mutate and become highly pathogenic. In 2006 a dead swan was found in Scotland which tested positive for the highly pathogenic virus H5N1. In 2007, H5N1 was confirmed on a poultry farm in Holton, Suffolk. A 3km Protection Zone (PZ), a 10km Surveillance Zone (SZ) and a wider Restricted Zone were imposed. In March 2007 the restrictions around the farm in Holton were lifted. A Food Standards Agency (FSA) investigation examined the possibility that food waste at a Bernard Matthews cutting plant in Holton may have been stored inappropriately but it concluded that there was no evidence of any offences under the Animal By-Products Regulations 2005 (1).  

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The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Limited, Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham WA14 4QG
Registered Charity No. 259358, Registered Company No. 959115 (England and Wales)

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