chicken-and-egg - page 19

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Chicken & Egg. Welfare and Food Together.
A. During an outbreak of avian flu, we must
do all we can to control the spread of the
disease and prevent birds becoming
infected and dying or having to be culled.
Any decision to require mandatory housing
is not taken lightly and takes into account
the risk of bird flu getting into a flock.
All keepers remain responsible for the
welfare of their birds and we publish
guidance on how to make sure welfare
is taken care of throughout periods of
enforced housing. This includes monitoring
temperatures, light, diet and enriching the
birds’ environment where possible.
Featherwel, BEIC and AssureWel have
produced practical guidance which
describes how to check for early signs of
injurious feather pecking in laying hens.
Keepers should seek advice from their vet
if there are any potential concerns about
welfare.
Q. Is the derogation to allow free range
birds to remain inside for 16 weeks likely
to be further extended? If so do you think
this will cast doubt on Defra’s integrity
regarding the AI situation, e.g. is the priority
to help the commercial sector or ensure
welfare?
A. It is not possible to speculate on future
regulations regarding free-range status. A
proposed extension to the current 12-week
grace period is still being considered by
the EU Commission. The issue is not about
welfare, which farmers must maintain when
birds are housed, but the labelling rules that
apply when previously free-range flocks are
required to be housed.
Our approach has always been to balance
effective disease control with animal welfare
and consumer confidence, and to support
affected farmers in dealing with outbreaks.
Q. How did DEFRA police those who flouted
the rulings and continued to allow their
flocks outside while the restrictions were
in force?
A. Local authorities are responsible for
enforcing cases of non-compliance, and
during the recent outbreak local authorities
responded to reports of non-compliance
with a proportionate, risk-based approach,
increasing in severity. The first step was a
letter stating the requirement to comply
with the restrictions, and if non-compliance
continued, a visit from a local authority
officer to restate these requirements. With
persistent, flagrant non-compliance the local
authority would instigate court action, which
could result in up to three months in jail and/
or an unlimited fine.
Q. Why were backyard hen keepers under
the spotlight despite Defra’s report
concluding that all of last year’s outbreaks
spread primarily as a result of wild birds
entering commercial units?
A. Enhanced biosecurity and measures to
control the spread of bird flu applied equally
to all poultry producers. Both commercial
and backyard flocks were at risk of disease
spread from wild birds, and there were
several cases of disease in each.
We recognise that the mandatory housing
and increased biosecurity required under
the avian influenza prevention zone caused
additional cost and disruption to both the
poultry industry and local backyard keepers.
However, they were important measures
to limit the number of cases we had in the
UK and minimise the spread of this disease
which is deadly to birds. The impacts of an
outbreak on poultry movements and trade
are the same regardless of whether the
outbreak is in a backyard flock or on a large
commercial premises. The winter 2016-17
outbreak is estimated to have cost the
industry £25 million in lost trade alone.
Q. Why is there no national policy on what
backyard hen keepers are supposed to do?
Various councils all seemed to have
different rules and it got very confusing.
A. During an outbreak the policy requirements
for backyard poultry keepers are the same
throughout England. A leaflet and guidance
aimed specifically at backyard poultry
keepers and explaining what it means for
them and what they can do for their flocks is
available on GOV.uk. Advice is also available
from the Defra Helpline and from APHA
via the Rural Services Helpline. All keepers
should practice good biosecurity regardless
of the disease situation - for example,
disinfecting clothing and equipment, reducing
poultry movement and minimising contact
between poultry and wild birds. Further
biosecurity advice is on GOV.uk.
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