A GROUP of poultry farmers have won a “landmark” legal challenge against the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) over compensation paid following an avian influenza outbreak.
The group, supported by the NFU, successfully argued that the APHA misinterpreted the legislation that underpins its compensation scheme by failing to adequately compensate affected farmers for birds that are healthy at the point at which the APHA decides they should be culled.
The judge found that the government’s policy, both pre-October 2022 (which calculated compensation for healthy birds at the end of culling) and post-October 2022 (which provided compensation to be calculated at the ‘outset of planning culling’) to be considered unlawful.
The poultry sector has long argued that farmers affected by AI have the right to compensation from the point that the APHA decides that birds should be culled, and not at the later point of culling.
Due to delays by the APHA, many birds that were otherwise healthy became affected by AI in the interim period.
As a result of the judgment, other poultry keepers who have had their compensation payments reduced as a result of the APHA’s policy may be entitled to have their compensation reconsidered.
The judgment has been described as “hugely significant” by NFU Poultry Board chair James Mottershead, who also called on the government to act quickly to address the financial loss that many poultry farmers have faced due to its approach in calculating AI compensation.
He added: “On behalf of the poultry sector, I would like to express my gratitude to the NFU members who have fought this challenge from the outset right up until today’s fantastic judgment.”
A Defra spokesperson said: “We appreciate the distress that avian influenza can cause all bird keepers who are affected by this awful disease.
“We are considering the judgement and are unable to comment further at this stage.”