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Rural Economy Will Pay For Bird Flu

by 5m Editor
21 November 2007, at 10:40am

UK - A leading agricultural and rural lawyer has warned that the economic impact of Avian Influenza upon the countryside if the viral disease spreads to the Midlands would be extremely serious, reports FarmingUK.

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We are also just into the shooting season. As yet no restrictions have been put on the hunting of wild game unless you are situated in a protection zone or within three kilometres of it

Solicitor Helen Gough, a member of the agricultural law team at Warwickshire lawyers Lodders

Solicitor Helen Gough, a member of the agricultural law team at Warwickshire lawyers Lodders – which last week rated highly in the legal bible Chamber & Partners – is warning that it is not just poultry producers that will need to take precautions.

Anybody keeping birds would be at risk. The millions of pounds invested in pheasant shooting, for instance, would be jeopardised said Ms Gough.

She warned: "A major concern for us and our clients would be the financial effect that an outbreak of AI could have, not just on large poultry producers but on smallholdings and the shooting community as well as many others.

"A number of our clients have been affected by the revocation of the national general licence on bird gatherings as they have been unable to attend events such as shows, exhibitions, or markets.

"We are also just into the shooting season. As yet no restrictions have been put on the hunting of wild game unless you are situated in a protection zone or within three kilometres of it - when permission would be required."

Ms Gough said specific guidelines had been produced for gamekeepers by DEFRA on how to deal with the disease.

For poultry farmers and smallholders, she added, who were considering buying or selling premises at this time additional thought should be given to the practicalities of such a move and the ability to transport, obtain and keep stock.

Planning considerations should also be considered as DEFRA is suggesting the housing of free range birds.

"Bird keepers have a duty of care to their animals and must make appropriate plans to mitigate the effects of anticipated problems.

"In the normal course of business a poultry keeper would be responsible for culling birds for welfare reasons.

"This still remains the case unless, and only as a last resort would DEFRA get involved in the facilitation of killing and disposal of the birds under a Disposal Scheme.

She said the recent outbreaks in Norfolk and Suffolk, two of the UK's main regions responsible for providing the rest of the UK with poultry produce, had delivered a major blow.

"We are all therefore now faced with the obligation to ensure that we do as much as possible to prevent, or at least minimise, the risk of the disease spreading."

Ms Gough said that if DEFRA introduced a disposal scheme it would only apply to birds that could not be moved under licence to a slaughter house, abbatoir or purpose built killing plant.

No payment would be received by poultry keepers for birds slaughtered/killed under such a scheme.

She said: "Government policy in respect of such payment has said that it would "prove a disincentive for them [bird keepers] to take responsibility for looking after their animals, and may also create a false market".

Avian Influenza is a highly contagious viral disease which affects the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous system of many species of birds. It is not a new disease. The first known outbreak was over 100 years ago in Italy.

The United States was also affected in the mid 1920s. Since then a series of wild bird outbreaks have occurred.

Outbreaks affecting domestic poultry have, in other countries since then, been eradicated by early detection and effective control measures being implemented swiftly.

5m Editor