Backyard flock response to AI must be reviewed, industry tells Chief Vet

The response to outbreaks of Avian Influenza in backyard flocks must be reviewed, the Poultry Health and Welfare Group (PHWG) urged in a meeting with the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO).

Following a letter to the CVO Nigel Gibbens, the PHWG is asking Defra to review its response to outbreaks of Avian Influenza (AI) in backyard flocks where there is no commercial activity or links to commercial premises.

In the letter, PHWG and NFU poultry board chairman Duncan Priestner wrote: “We feel that putting in place movement restrictions around a backyard infected premise is disproportionate to the risk posed and only serves to penalise the commercial sector.

“We feel that a different approach to zones is necessary: to help movement and to avoid trade impact, without compromising the ability to stamp out the disease.”

In a wide-ranging meeting, the CVO, the PHWG and industry representatives discussed and prioritised actions on continued high standards of biosecurity, backyard flocks, licensing, virus survivability, culling and depopulation, and Prevention Zones.

The direct consequence of AI has been the loss of disease-free status for the UK since the first outbreak in December 2016 and the industry has been unable to export to some of its major markets since then.

Priestner added: “The poultry industry cannot sustain this prolonged loss of trade and we fear for those companies whose income depends heavily on exports outside the EU. “The impact the loss of that market has on the whole supply chain cannot be underestimated.”

The group is calling for a new risk-based response framework to be put in place to deal with disease in backyard flocks and for the Great Britain Poultry Register threshold to be reviewed – and anything under that threshold should not be subject to the usual AI restrictions.

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