Fresh bird flu crisis looms
A fresh bird flu crisis may be looming for game bird supply as the outbreak in France shows no signs of abating and key game bird producing areas remain the epicentre of the outbreak.
Despite radical measures by the French government, the most deadly form of bird flu, High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza, or HPAI, has continued to tear through poultry units in the country’s northwest. The latest figures show that there have been 256 proven positive cases in the country since August this year. This puts the country on track for a new record worst ever bird flu season.
Particularly worrying for the UK shooting community is the continuing heavy concentration of cases in gamebird rearing areas. France’s largest gamebird producer, L’envol de Retz, is based in Loire Atlantique, a department which has had 12 cases. This alone would be cause for concern. However, even more worrying is the situation of Gibovendée, another large supplier based near Chambretaud in Vendée. This area has had nearly half of all of France’s cases of the disease and is under the most severe restrictions as vets and civil servants struggle to stifle the outbreak.
An outbreak, which took hold slightly later in the year last year, caused extreme disruption to gamebird supply with many shoots operating either a curtailed shooting calendar or no shooting at all as a result. Many UK reared birds begin their lives in France either as chicks or as fertilised eggs supplied for hatching.
The crucial stages of gamebird production are still a few months away and there is still time to bring the outbreak under control, however there is little to suggest that progress is being made. Gamekeeper Kevin Hart told Shooting Times that he is concerned about the prospects for the season ahead.
Kevin said: “A lot of shoots were very short this year and we all know of cases of shoots closing down and keepers being laid off as a result. There are also shoots which have been mothballed in the hope that problems will be resolved this year. If there isn’t a good supply of birds this year the result could be catastrophic.”