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New bird flu cases fuel ban fears

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
New bird flu cases fuel ban fears

POULTRY-KEEPERS in the region are braced for a longer ban on flocks being allowed outside after two further bird flu cases were confirmed in England.

The presence of the H5N8 strain in Lancashire in the last few days and Lincolnshire last week means owners of domestic and farmed flocks face an increased chance of being told to keep birds under cover beyond the current restriction due to end on February 28.

NFU Scotland have held talks with Scottish Government officials, including about the future marketing of ‘free range’ eggs in the event of a further extension of restrictions.

“All commercial producers are complying with the rules but it is important that all poultry-keepers, including those with so-called back yard flocks, get on board,” said a spokesman for the farm union.

Meanwhile, an Annan poultry expert has praised the UK and Scottish Governments for acting quickly in a bid to prevent the disease taking hold.

Margaret Barbour, who was 30 years secretary of the Eaglesfield Poultry Bantam and Pigeon Association, said: “I was pleased to see officials took reasonably quick action by putting restrictions in place.

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POULTRY EXPERT . . . Margaret Barbour of Annan

“Looking back to the last major UK foot and mouth disease outbreak the Government were quite slow to close things down and, as a result, a lot of valuable — including many uninfected — farm animals were slaughtered in the cull.”

Mrs Barbour, whose late father Jock Wyllie of Ashyardsgate, Eaglesfield was an international poultry judge, stated that, while inconvenient, the requirement to keep poultry out of reach of wild birds was important for the greater good.

She said: “Any poultry-keepers not observing the restriction should instead do so out of respect for those who are.

“One or two folk, who even let a few hens out, can put at risk the flocks of those who rely on poultry for their livelihood.”

Late last December a wild peregrine falcon found dead in Dumfries and Galloway tested positive for avian flu.

Dumfries and Galloway Council, which is responsible for policing the restrictions, this week reminded owners to keep their captive birds inside to reduce the risk of infection.

Local authority officials stated that, while no enforcement action had been taken so far, they continued to monitor the situation.

 

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