BIRD-FLU KILLING FARMS
Fears over bird flu could wipe out poultry exports
by Sean Poulter and Fiona MacRae, Daily Mail, Feb 6, 2007
Britain's poultry farmers are threatened by an international boycott that could wipe out exports of meat, eggs and live birds worth £400 million a year. At the same time the country's biggest supermarket, Tesco, reported there has been a dip in chicken and turkey sales apparently caused by the discovery of bird flu in Suffolk. The developments follow the outbreak of the virulent H5N1 strain at the Bernard Matthews turkey farm, where the culling of infected birds was completed yesterday.
Exports of all meat, eggs and birds from the immediate 6.25-mile zone around the farm have been banned since the outbreak was confirmed at the weekend. Yesterday, Russia and Japan went further and banned all poultry and egg imports from farms throughout the UK while other nations are expected to follow suit. The authorities in both the north and south of Ireland have also blocked all live bird imports from Britain until the current emergency is over.
There are fears the virus is now spreading through the wild bird population, which will lead to repeated outbreaks in future. Yesterday, the EU Health Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, warned: "The virus is still around. We should never feel that we are safe, in the sense of eradicating it." The Government has ordered a lock-down on 535 farms in an 800-square-mile area of East Anglia surrounding the farm.
This includes a demand to bring in free-range hens on 14 farms which are currently producing 100,000 eggs a day for the country's major supermarkets. European food safety experts are expected to recommend a ban on the export of all meat, eggs and live birds from this 800-square-mile area when they meet in Brussels today. Tesco said there has been an "inevitable dip" in sales of fresh and frozen poultry since news of the bird flu emerged. Charles Bourns, chairman of the National Farmers' Union poultry board, said: "If chicken sales drop by 5 per cent, that means we produce 16 million chickens a week in this country and some 500,000 are not wanted. That will affect the market and prices will go down. Of course we are concerned."
To date, the virus has been found in one shed on the farm, at Holton. As a result, the Government ordered the slaughter of 160,000 turkeys in 21 sheds on the farm. The bodies have been piled into lorries and driven 210 miles to be incinerated at a rendering plant in Staffordshire. Accountants Grant Thornton suggest the slaughter plus the policing of movement restriction zones is likely to cost the taxpayer more than £15 million. Yesterday it emerged that some poultry owners living in the shadow of the outbreak have started dumping their birds. A Suffolk county council spokesman said: "We have had reports of isolated dumping of chickens and poultry by roadsides. "We believe it is because people are panicking. Trading standards are now rounding up and putting down the chickens."
Families who own cats and live within a two-mile range of the farm are being warned to keep them inside. The precautionary measure follows evidence that cats, and possibly dogs, can pick up the virus if allowed to roam and scavenge dead birds.
Experts at the RSPB believe the virus could have been spreading among the wild bird population since last October, if not longer. It is thought that migrating birds could have brought the virus to the Suffolk coastal wetlands and passed it on. Government experts are also investigating whether there is a link to farms operated by a subsidiary of Bernard Matthews in Hungary. Hungary reported an outbreak of bird flu among farmed geese last month.
Tory food and farming spokesman Peter Ainsworth said the Government should be doing more to reassure the public that poultry products are safe. "This is a blow to the poultry industry but it is vital it doesn't become a crisis," he said. The Food and Farming Secretary David Miliband and the Food Standards Agency insist there is no risk to public health from eating poultry, meat or eggs which are cooked correctly. Mr Miliband told the Commons: "Our goals are clear – to stamp out the disease, to protect public health, to protect animal health and welfare and to regain disease-free status in the UK." The Bernard Matthews company has stressed that none of the affected birds have gone into stores. It also said experts in Hungary and the UK have ruled out any link between the two outbreaks.
BIRD BRAIN BIRD FLU SONG
TENESSEE BIRD WALK
Fears over bird flu could wipe out poultry export, Daily Mail, Feb 6, 2007
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