Poultry farmers have been told to make plans on how their birds could be moved indoors at short notice, should it become necessary because of avian flu.

 

The request has come from the government’s chief vet Debby Reynolds.

 

Dr Reynolds said the latest assessment suggested that there is a high risk of further global geographic spread of avian flu in birds.

 

“The risk to the UK can be described as “an increased, but still low likelihood of the imminent introduction of H5N1 to the UK“.

 

But she added: “All of us – government and the poultry industry – need to be prepared.”

 

Dr Reynolds said the government recognised the challenge that organic and free range producers would face if their birds needed to be housed indoors. 

 

“We are working with the European Commission to find ways of protecting the status of their products if that were to happen.

 

“But we cannot tackle this problem effectively on our own – we need poultry producers to play their part.

 

“So we want all poultry keepers to think in advance about the steps they can take to minimise disease risk in the event of an outbreak.”

 

DEFRA has said British bird owners would be required, wherever practicable, to move their birds indoors as soon as possible if a case of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza were found in Great Britain.  

 

In cases where housing is not practicable, the keeper will be required to take all reasonable measures to minimise contact with wild birds.