MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have called for “fundamentally unfair” rules on farmers’ compensation for bird flu to be changed.
The UK is currently experiencing its largest and longest ever outbreak of bird flu. The outbreak has negatively affected farmers raising turkeys for the Christmas market as well as other poultry producers. It is also impacting the wild bird population.
The MPs have written to the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, saying the compensation rules are unfair because payment is only made for healthy birds that are culled by government vets from the Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA). However, because the current strain of bird flu kills birds so quickly, a large number of them die between the disease being notified by farmers and the arrival of the vets for culling.
This means that the longer farmers have to wait for their cull, the less compensation they get.
The letter from the Committee, called on the Secretary of State to revise the rules so that compensation is paid based on the number of birds alive in an affected flock at the point farmers report the outbreak – rather than on the number of birds that are later culled.
The letter also called for other changes to help the poultry sector cope with bird flu and asked for details on what the government was doing to develop a vaccine against the disease.
Vaccination of poultry and other captive birds is not currently permitted in the UK and many countries will not allow the import of meat from animals that have been vaccinated against bird flu. Therefore, the MPs also asked the Secretary of State to explain what her Department was doing to address the regulatory and trade barriers that might prevent the rollout of any vaccine that is developed.