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Bird flu outbreak tails off, but challenges still remain

Hopes are high for a resumption of egg and chick imports from France as the country’s catastrophic bird flu outbreak finally tails off.

French bird flu outbreak

New cases are still being reported in France, however the rate of increase in the crucial Pays de la Loire region has continued to slow. Only three new cases were reported between the 19th and 26th of April in the Vendée department and only one new case was reported in Loire Atlantique. Some doubts remain over the accuracy of these figures as there have been reports that overwhelmed testing laboratories have been slow to clear backlog of cases. However a clear trend is now evident.

While the end of the French outbreak appears to be in sight, restrictions remain on egg and chick imports. A well informed source told Shooting Times that they doubted that DEFRA will be willing to take any steps that could be seen as putting the UK poultry industry at risk to help shoots get chicks and eggs. However as Shooting Times went to press, a meeting was underway between industry figures and government representatives to try and find a way forward that would allow chick and egg imports while protecting the UK’s biosecurity.

Eric Clough, who describes himself as a ‘hobby gamekeeper’, told Shooting Times that he had already pushed his first shoot day to the end of October in the hope that would ensure that late arriving poults were ready. Eric said: “If the situation in France is improving then hopefully we can still get poults in time to shoot in late October or November. I’m not sure how all the timings work out but when we last spoke to our game farmer, he certainly seemed more hopeful than he was few weeks ago.”

Meanwhile in the UK a housing order for all poultry. including captive gamebirds, will be lifted on second of May. UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe.”