Poultry producers win case for greater bird flu compensation

Poultry farmers who have had their flocks slaughtered following an outbreak of avian influenza have been under-compensated and may have a right to further payments.

That is the conclusion of a court case, brought against the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha), by a group of seven poultry producers, backed by the NFU.

See also: NFU backs legal challenge for better bird flu compensation

In the past, Defra would only pay compensation on the number of healthy birds slaughtered at the time of culling.

But, given the delays that producers experienced in getting culling teams onto farm and the virulence of the disease, some flocks (especially in the turkey sector) were almost wiped out by the time any surviving healthy birds were counted.


Following industry complaints, Defra acted in October 2022 to rebase the compensation calculation on the number of healthy birds on a farm at the outset of the planned cull, rather than at the end.

But, given that it could still take 48 hours from confirmation of the disease on a holding for the chief vet to issue culling approval, producers and the NFU argued that even this resulted in under-compensation, given the number of birds that would die while the paperwork was being sorted.

A legal case was put together in December 2022, arguing that Apha had wrongly interpreted the law and failed to compensate affected farmers for healthy birds properly.

And in a High Court ruling on Friday (19 January), the judge, Mrs Justice Hill, backed this view, saying “it is appropriate to grant a declaration that the old and new policies are unlawful”.

Reconsider payments

“The defendant (Defra) is required to reconsider the compensation payable to the claimants in light of this judgment,” the ruling concluded.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “The High Court has made clear that Apha’s avian influenza compensation policy is unlawful, and we now look to government to rectify this wrong and to pay farmers the compensation to which they are lawfully entitled.”

NFU poultry board chairman James Mottershead agreed that “the government’s flawed approach to calculating avian influenza compensation over recent years must be swiftly corrected as a result of this ruling.”

“It is long overdue,” he said. “I really feel for our producer members who have been through hell with this disease. It should never have gone to court.”

The NFU says it is possible that other poultry keepers, with similar factual circumstances to those of the claimants, may also be entitled to have their compensation reconsidered by the Apha.

NFU members who believe they have been affected by the Apha’s unlawful policy should contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.