Avian influenza presents both challenges and opportunities to leaders around the world engaged in pandemic influenza preparedness planning. Most resource-poor countries will be unable to stockpile antivirals or have access to eventual human vaccines for pandemic flu. Preparedness plans, directed at controlling avian influenza at the source, enable countries simultaneously to promote national and global health, animal welfare and international development. Improving the veterinary infrastructure and capacity of resource-poor countries is one way to prevent potential pandemic flu deaths in resource-rich countries. In this article, Amanda Martinot, James Thomas, Alejandro Thiermann and Nabarun Dasgupta argue that national health leaders need to consider more comprehensive strategies that incorporate veterinary surveillance and improvements in veterinary infrastructure for the control of avian influenza epizootics as part of national pandemic preparedness planning. This, they argue, will require a shift in attitude, from thinking in terms of preparation for an inevitable pandemic to pre-emption of the potential pandemic through prevention measures in the animal population.