Business as usual for egg producer near bird flu epicentre

It is business as usual for a Scottish poultry farmer caught just outside the 3km exclusion zone around Britain’s first confirmed case of the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus.

Donald Peddie has 22,000 laying birds less than five miles from the epicentre of the outbreak at Cellardyke, Fife.

His farm falls inside the surveillance zone, but he says he has just received confirmation that he can carry on selling his eggs to local shops, restaurants and hotels.

“I’ve just had confirmation that no licensing is needed to move table eggs in and out of the zone.

“As long as people keep buying eggs, there’ll be no impact on the business.”

He was initially angry to find out about the surveillance zone thrown up around the area through the media rather than notification by the Scottish Executive.

But on reflection he says it is better that a sound decision be reached more slowly than any panic reaction that could harm local businesses.

The next serious test will be whether or not he receives a license to move birds themselves in time to bring in a fresh batch of layers.

“It’s down to the wheels of bureaucracy turning now, but I think two weeks should be plenty of time.”

If the licence does not come through, Mr Peddie said he would be unable to send his old birds for slaughter in Norfolk or bring in new pullets.

“Any poultry farmer who hasn’t given the matter careful thought should do so now – it’s a shot across the bows. I think avian influenza is going to be here in Europe for quite a while.

“It’s the organic people who are facing real problems because they don’t have the room to get their birds indoors.”