Those shoots that signed up to the poultry register since its launch in December 2005 were promised their identities would not be made public. Should the list of people keeping 50 birds or more fall into the wrong hands, the list would change from being an effective tool for preventing the spread of bird flu to a detailed database for anti-fieldsports campaigners. In its latest attack on the shooting industry, the anti-shooting group Animal Aid has accused gamefarmers of not paying correct business rates.

The organisation claims to be working to ?awaken the Treasury? as to what tax bands gamefarms should fall under. Animal Aid is also urging the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to use the poultry register held by DEFRA as a list of businesses to be valued and sent a rates bill accordingly. An article on the Animal Aid website says: ?There is now no reason for any gamebird producer to escape payment of rates, since the VOA could simply ask DEFRA for the list of all such businesses, and those businesses could then be valued and sent a rates bill. In an extraordinary reply, the VOA claimed that it cannot pursue this course since DEFRA and the State Veterinary Service say that the 1998 Data Protection Act won?t allow them to release information from the poultry register.?

The article continues by saying: ?We have been in further correspondence with the VOA, pointing out that if DEFRA is withholding the information then it is acting illegally because the 1998 Data Protection Act specifically states that personal data can be disclosed when to do so could result in the collection of due taxes.?

When asked about the continued security of the poultry register, which catalogues more than 24million birds, a spokesman from DEFRA told ST: ?DEFRA has not released any data relating to names and addresses of gamefarmers ? or any other poultry keepers ? from the Great Britain Poultry Register to either Animal Aid or the Valuation Office Agency.? Pam Kelsey, the chairman of the Game Farmers? Association (GFA), voiced her concern over a potential leak of the register information when she told ST: ?We were given the assurance that the register would only be used to assist in the prevention of the spread of disease.

This was the promise DEFRA gave to all poultry farmers, not just gamefarmers. If the information was given to a third party then DEFRA would be going against its word, which could have serious consequences. The more people that have access to this information, the greater the risk that it could be leaked to the anti-fieldsports organisations, which the GFA would strongly oppose.?