The controversial Responsibility and Cost Sharing for Animal Health and Welfare Consultation, which closes on 30 June, proposes forcing game farmers to pay a levy of 4p per bird as well as a mandatory insurance premium to share the costs of future outbreaks of diseases such as bird flu and foot-and-mouth.

According to DEFRA, the predicted average annual cost of managing disease is £32.5million, which would mean the total tax on every game bird would be 12p, not 16p as previously calculated.

A spokesman for the Game Farmers? Association told Shooting Times magazine the clarification did little to reduce its concerns:

?Together with the National Gamekeepers? Organisation, we put more than 30 areas of concern to the officials working on the responsibility and cost-sharing scheme. We explained how imposing more costs on UK game rearers could only lead to yet more game bird imports and would be counter-productive in disease management terms.?

The spokesman added: ?Whether it is 16p or 12p a bird, the proposed charge would still be enough to make game chick production in the UK uneconomic and put a serious dent in the budget of any shoot.?

The spokesman pointed out that while DEFRA justifies its cost-sharing proposals on the basis that it will divide disease management costs equally between government and game farmers, its latest clarification simply highlights that an uneven cost split is already in place.

?If you add the proposed levy and compulsory insurance together, the livestock industries, including the game sector, will be paying far more than half.?

To respond to the consultation: www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/ new-independent-body-ah/index.htm