Poultry farmers in the United Kingdom are calling for their government to issue a nationwide housing order for chickens and captive birds after a bird flu outbreak last month.
Currently, parts of the U.K., including Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, already have a housing order for all poultry, which requires owners to keep their birds indoors and follow strict measures to protect their flocks from disease. A nationwide housing order would apply to individuals who own birds on commercial or non-commercial properties.
The response from chicken and egg producers comes as England deals with 27 outbreaks in September across three counties. Producers specializing in Christmas goose are being hit especially hard by Avian Influenza.
Christine Middlemiss, the chief veterinary officer of the United Kingdom, said she expects bird flu cases to rise for the foreseeable future due to migration patterns of birds coming back to the country.
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Outbreaks have also occurred in Oxford, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Devon, according to The Guardian. Therefore, farmers are demanding the government extend the current housing order to the whole nation.
“The sheer persistence of avian influenza over the past year, coupled with soaring energy and feed costs, has put the whole British poultry sector under huge emotional and financial pressure,” said the National Farmers Union poultry board chair James Mottershead in a statement.
He added, “Given the recent rise in avian influenza cases and the distress they cause for farming families, the implementation of housing measures in the east of England is a necessary step.”
“The number one priority for poultry farmers has always been the health and welfare of their flock,” Mottershead continued. “That is why the National Farmers Union is now urging the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to consider expanding the regional housing measures on a national basis to reflect any increase in the levels of risk across the country,”
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The British Poultry Council agreed with Mottershead’s statement, adding that a housing order for all farmed birds was paramount for the “safety of all birds.”
Bird flu is capable of spreading from person to person, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.