DEFRA defends decision to move avian flu turkeys 200 miles for rendering

DEFRA has defended its decision to move turkey carcasses from the Suffolk farm at the centre of the avian flu outbreak to Staffordshire, claiming that the biosecurity risks associated are minimal.

Farmers are questioning why portable incinerators are not being used to dispose of 160,000 turkeys culled on a farm in Suffolk because of an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian flu.

Producers are concerned that DEFRA has chosen to load up the dead turkeys and transport them more 200 miles to a rendering plant in Staffordshire.

They believe that the animals should have been dealt with on-site because transporting them by lorry raises cross-contamination issues.

Farmers Weekly has contacted a company which sells and hires out airburners, which has confirmed that it could have moved in equipment to incinerate the stock if asked to by DEFRA.

Justin Kingwell of Kingwell Holdings said that he had access to at least eight airburners and each one could have processed the carcasses at a rate of five tonnes per hour.

“These machines were used during the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001, so we know that they work, and the ash that is produced is inert so can be buried on site,” he said.“Would it not have been better to incinerate the stock at the site of infection?” he said.

But DEFRA said that rendering has been chosen as the preferred method of disposal as it was the safest way to ensure that the virus was destroyed.

The plant in question had been picked as it was much larger than normal incineration plants and therefore had the capacity to deal with the number of birds in question.

The department claimed that it was safe to move the birds to a rendering plant as vehicles were sealed as soon as they had been loaded with carcases.
“Each driver is provided with the necessary movement licence, and should depart with the minimum delay,” said a statement.

“Approved rendering plants will provide clean vehicles and will ensure that the seal on the tail-board is sound and will prevent leakage.

“Each lorry will be provided with metal covers which are locked before leaving the Infected Premises and cleansed and disinfected on the external surfaces.”

The statement claimed the risks of further infection at a rendering plant were also minimal.

There were stringent bio-security measures in place to ensure that the disease was not spread.

Extra measures were being taken in this particular case with Tamiflu vaccinations being provided to employees at the rendering plant, it said.

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