BASC calls for better Defra engagement on Avian Influenza risk

BASC is urging Defra to engage better with the shooting sector following the publication today of a risk assessment in relation to the release of pheasants and Avian Influenza (AI).

In its conclusion to the report, Defra acknowledges: “…there is a high uncertainty inherent in this assessment with a lack of data and reliance on assumptions”.

BASC says the wider shooting sector was not adequately consulted ahead of the publication and, if it had been, a fuller and more accurate assessment could have been made.

The retrospective risk assessment considers the release period of July and August 2022 in the context of the Avian Influenza situation at that time. Defra acknowledges that, as such, in relation to any future assessments around game bird release, it is ‘a working document and would have to be revisited.’ 

It will not impact on the remainder of this season.

Glynn Evans, BASC’s head of Game and Wildlife Management, said: “Within the risk assessment, there have been a number of assumptions made which BASC and others in the shooting sector could have assisted in clarifying by providing helpful evidence and data.

“For example, it looks at the risk level of pheasants potentially spreading AI if they were released with the disease but doesn’t seem to understand how the process of release happens in practice and how the birds are managed. The shooting sector has been very clear that pheasants would not be released under such circumstances.

“We also don’t believe Defra has considered the risk of pheasants actually contracting Avian Influenza in the first place, but has still managed to draw conclusions of them potentially spreading it.

“This risk assessment is also based around a very limited snap-shot of a period in time last summer and, as such, much greater information subsequently learnt about Avian influenza has not been included.

“BASC and the wider shooting sector has engaged positively for many years with Defra and all of the devolved administrations on Avian Influenza and shown a level of responsibility and on-the-ground action that has significantly impacted the fight against Avian Influenza. We continue to encourage the shooting sector to complete the Poultry Register to assist data gathering and to practice the highest standards of biosecurity.

“We have data and knowledge that can assist Defra and it should engage us better before producing documents that impact our sector greater than any other.”

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