FU CYMRU poultry members last week urged the Welsh Government to keep a close eye on the spread of Avian Influenza. Their call came after more confirmed cases in Wales and on the Welsh border.
Confirmed cases of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (AI) in Buckley, Flintshire and Tattenhall, Cheshire, have heightened Welsh poultry farmers’ concerns. The current outbreak is the most severe in the UK’s history. Infections in wild bird flocks around the UK’s coasts have speeded its spread.
WHAT IS AVIAN FLU?
Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease.
It affects many species of birds’ respiratory, digestive, or nervous systems.
Some strains of Avian influenza can spread easily and quickly between birds and have a high death rate.
Migratory seabirds and waterfowl are known carriers of avian flu.
The lethal (to birds) and infectious H5N1 strain originated in the intensive poultry industry in Asia and has since spread into wild bird populations worldwide.
SITUATION UNDER DAILY REVIEW
Last week, the Minister for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths MS, outlined the severity and spread of AI in Wales to the Welsh Parliament. Although the Westminster Government introduced housing restrictions in England last month, she confirmed Wales would wait to introduce a mandatory housing order. However, she stated the situation remains under daily review.
Ms Griffiths told Members of the Senedd the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officers expect the outbreak to last through the winter to next spring.
On Monday (Nov 7), NFU Cymru members met with the Interim Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales to discuss their growing concerns over the latest outbreak of AI. Topics discussed included an update on the spread of AI, the epidemiology of the disease, biosecurity, the current measures that poultry keepers must adhere to under the All-Wales Avian Influenza Protection Zone, and the Welsh Government’s current position on housing measures.
During the meeting, Welsh Government representatives reminded all keepers that they must keep their birds safe by rigorously applying the biosecurity measures in the All-Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone. Keepers of birds must also remain vigilant for signs of the disease.
UNION CALLS FOR POULTRY HOUSING MEASURES
NFU Cymru Poultry Chairman Richard Williams said: “Everyone connected with the poultry industry is extremely concerned at the current AI picture. The priority for everyone at this time is protecting our flocks from this disease.
“I would like to thank the Interim Chief Veterinary Officer Gavin Watkins and his team for providing NFU Cymru members with a timely update on the spread of AI earlier this week.
“Although NFU Cymru recognises the disease picture in Wales is different to England – where housing orders are already in place – Welsh poultry keepers at the meeting felt that it vital the industry in Wales kept ahead of the disease. To that end – and with the disease creeping closer every day – there was a general feeling among those in attendance that, alongside the stringent biosecurity measures already introduced in Wales as part of the All-Wales Avian Influenza Protection Zone measures, the Welsh Government should also introduce housing measures as an additional protective shield for birds in Wales.
“NFU Cymru urges Welsh Government to keep a close eye on the continued spread of AI and to take fast action if and when it is required to prevent further cases. NFU Cymru will remain in close dialogue with Welsh Government and is also in constant contact with NFU colleagues over the border in England, along with Defra and the APHA, to ensure we remain on top of this issue and keep a watch on the disease’s spread and impact. Just as importantly, the union continues to support those member businesses affected by this latest wave of AI.
“I make no apologies for repeating the important message that all poultry members must continue to practise enhanced biosecurity and be vigilant for any signs of disease in their flock. I would also ask members of the public who keep smaller flocks of birds, such as chickens, geese and ducks, to follow the Welsh Government’s biosecurity advice.
“All bird keepers – whether they be larger commercial businesses or those with small ‘backyard’ flocks – have an important part to play in reducing the risk of AI.”
CONSERVATIVES BACK UNION’S CALL
Samuel Kurtz, the Shadow Rural Affairs Minister and MS for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, called for a Wales-wide housing order. During the Minister’s statement, Mr Kurtz called for her to give a statement to the Senedd on the spread of avian flu in Wales.
He said: “With the way avian flu has spread across the UK between wild birds and commercial fowl, a pre-emptive housing order in Wales would give Welsh businesses some certainty in uncertain situations.
“Avian flu doesn’t respect borders, and with so many units close to the English border, and with the potential for further wild bird migration, the Welsh Government’s decision has left Welsh poultry vulnerable to infection.”