UK Game Shoots Urged to Heed French Bird Flu Outbreak

B* Pheasant chicks in hatcher trayritain’s shooting organisations are jointly urging their members to pay heed to a developing outbreak of Bird Flu in SW France. Although the disease has so far only been reported in kept flocks of geese, ducks and poultry, the resultant EU control measures could affect the import of gamebird eggs, chicks and poults to the UK later this year.

Sixty-seven cases of bird flu have recently been confirmed in France, across seven Departments in the SW and centre of the country. Restrictions put in place under EU law in response to the disease prohibit any export of poultry or poultry products (including gamebirds and their eggs) from Control Zones and Surveillance Zones of a few kilometers extent around each outbreak. Exports from a much wider Restricted Zone, currently covering all of SW France, are only allowed under licence and are limited to eggs and day old chicks that have originated from disease-free areas and biosecure farms.

So far, the disease has not hit the more northerly Loire region, which is where most French gamebird and egg producers are located. This area is currently unaffected by the export restrictions but that could change overnight were further outbreaks to be detected there.

At present, UK officials at Defra are taking a measured view of the outbreak in France, describing the risk of AI arriving from the European mainland as ‘low but heightened’. They are urging UK bird rearers to check their biosecurity and to be vigilant, reporting any disease concerns immediately.

The shooting organisations, meanwhile, are urging their members to consider the extent to which their activities may be threatened by the current outbreak, or would be threatened were it to spread.

A spokesman said: “The UK shooting industry is part-reliant on game imports from France, so it is right that we call attention to the situation there so that anyone who may be affected can make alternative plans. With no further outbreaks, imports to the UK may be largely unaffected, as most French game producers are located to the north and west of the restricted areas, but the shooting world needs to be aware that the situation could change at any time and with eggs due to come in from March and day old chicks from April, some people may wish to make alternative arrangements.”

The developing situation is being monitored daily both by the shooting organisations and by the UK Government. Defra updates are available via the Gov.UK website and a regularly updated map of the affected areas can be found on the French Government website: http://agriculture.gouv.fr/la-liste-des-communes-de-la-zone-reglementee-influenza-aviaire

The Bird Flu outbreaks in France are of several types, including low pathogenic strains, high pathogenic varieties and also some H5N1. The disease has been detected in kept flocks of geese, ducks and poultry. Bird Flu has not so far been found in gamebirds, nor in wild birds.

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The shooting organisations involved are:
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC)
The Code of Good Shooting Practice Committee
Country Land and Business Association (CLA)
Countryside Alliance (CA)
Game Farmers’ Association
Moorland Association (MA)
National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (NGO)
Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association
Scottish Land and Estates