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All further releases banned as housing order comes into force

An England-wide housing order has been put in place forcing all poultry keepers to keep their birds indoors and prohibiting the release of any game birds, writes Matt Cross

HPAI Bird flu teams

The order has come as the avian influenza outbreak continues to worsen. East Anglia remains by far the most severely affected region. However, over the last seven days, multiple new outbreaks have been detected in flocks of birds. There are now control zones in place from the Orkney Islands in the north to Plymouth in the south and from the Isle of Lewis in the west to Lowestoft in the east.

Announcing the introduction of the housing order, Chief Vet Christine Middlemiss said: “We are now facing this year, the largest ever outbreak of bird flu.

“Scrupulous biosecurity and separating flocks in all ways from wild birds remain the best form of defence. Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday 7th November onwards you must keep yours indoors.

“In England captive game birds must now be housed securely and any birds still held in pens can not be released.”

In season releasing, sometimes referred to as ‘topping up’, to replace shot birds is widely viewed as bad practice. However it has been used by some shoots in the past to increase the availability of birds for shooting.

Different rules are in force in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. A number of outbreaks in wild or released pheasants have continued to be recorded. These include outbreaks in Somerset West, South Lakeland, the Vale of Glamorgan, Suffolk and on Anglesey. The publicly available data does not indicate how many birds were involved in each outbreak, however Shooting Times has received reports of some severe outbreaks among pheasants and gamekeepers are urged to remain vigilant and to report any concerns promptly.

Currently the outbreak does not prevent shoots from taking place and Shooting Times understands that there are currently no plans to curtail game shooting or pest control activities.

Cases have also been rapidly increasing in France with the key game bird producing regions being severely affected yet again.