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MPs call for “unfair” avian influenza compensation rules to be changed

Seasonal turkeys

MPs call for “unfair” avian influenza compensation rules to be changed

MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Efra) have called for “fundamentally unfair” rules on farmers’ compensation for avian influenza (AI) to be changed.

See also: Four things learned from EFRA’s avian influenza hearing

The UK is currently experiencing its largest and longest-ever outbreak of AI.

The outbreak has negatively affected farmers raising turkeys for the Christmas market and other poultry producers. It is also impacting the UK’s wild bird population.

The MPs have written to Defra secretary Thérèse Coffey saying the compensation rules are unfair because payment is only made for healthy birds that government vets cull.

Compensation

However, because the current strain of bird flu kills birds so quickly, many of them die between the disease being notified by farmers and the arrival of the vets for culling.

This means that the longer farmers wait for their cull, the less compensation they get.

The committee’s letter calls for a revision of the rules to pay compensation based on the number of birds alive in an affected flock at the point farmers report the outbreak – rather than on the number of birds that are later culled.

Vaccine

The letter also called for other changes to help the poultry sector cope with bird flu and asked for details on what the government was doing to develop a vaccine against the disease.

Vaccination of poultry and other captive birds is not currently permitted in the UK and many countries will not allow the import of meat from animals that have been vaccinated against bird flu.

MPs also asked the secretary of state to explain what Defra was doing to address the regulatory and trade barriers that might prevent the rollout of any vaccine that is developed.

The full letter can be viewed here.