Will bird flu stuff our Christmas turkey supply? Fears for livestock after more than three million birds are culled in huge outbreak
- Stocks of turkeys could be at risk if worst bird flu outbreak in UK history spreads
- More than three million birds culled so far with special protection zones set up
- Poultry producers are increasingly concerned about flu getting into turkey farms
Stocks of festive turkeys could be at risk if the worst bird flu outbreak in UK history spreads, farmers warn.
More than three million birds have been culled so far and poultry producers are growing increasingly concerned about their livestock.
Special protection zones to try to contain the disease have been set up in Norfolk, Suffolk, parts of Essex and the whole of the South West of England.
Stocks of festive turkeys could be at risk if the worst bird flu outbreak in UK history spreads
James Mottershead, chairman of the National Farmers’ Union poultry board, said: ‘If bird flu gets into turkeys that could cause holy carnage; that could cause real supply chain issues in the run-up to Christmas. I know of some instances where seasonal turkey producers have been affected.’
Farms which have an outbreak and are classed as infected could have to stop raising birds for up to a year, he added.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said around one billion birds a year are produced by British farmers and officials were working to ‘eradicate the disease as quickly as possible’.
More than three million birds have been culled so far and poultry producers are growing increasingly concerned about their livestock
Other farmed birds, such as ducks, are also at risk. For example, James Coleman, who runs Creedy Carver farm, in Devon, has had to cull 20,000 ducks.
‘At the moment everybody in the industry is just on tenterhooks constantly,’ he told Sky News.
He said there needs to be a ‘massive review’ on how Defra deals with the outbreak, and called for financial aid to farmers who lose birds and are forced to shut down when the infection is detected.
Paul St Pierre, conservation officers at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said there has already been a massive impact on wild birds.
‘We’ve seen declines of between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of the population of Great Skua in the UK and we hold two-thirds of the world population, so that species has gone straight onto the red list,’ he said.
‘These birds are long-lived – you’re talking about birds that don’t even start breeding for five years and then they only have one chick per year, so it might take decades before some of these populations recover.’
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