Gamekeepers have launched a campaign to save the shooting season from disaster after DEFRA confirmed that it would enforce a 90 day delay from the end of a bird flu outbreak until imports to the UK could resume.
In an email to Shooting Times DEFRA explained that the 90 day restriction to movements came from the bird flu regulations which were transferred into UK law as part of the Brexit process. After Brexit, changes by the EU shortened the period for which movements were restricted to 30 days. However the UK regulations were not updated to match this. This difference has caused confusion among French suppliers who did not realise that the UK was still using the old regulations. Industry insiders warned Shooting Times that game farmers in the UK who made promises based on what they were told by their French suppliers may well now find that they are unable to deliver.
Responding to the situation the National Gamekeepers Organisation has launched a campaign to persuade the government to issue licences to shorten the period during which movement is restricted. The organisation issued its members with a template letter to send to DEFRA ministers. The letter, which emphasised the impact of the 90 day period on its members’ livelihoods, called not just for emergency licences but also for future changes. The letter said: “I would also like to ask you to safeguard my sector in the future by changing the rules to reduce the current 90-day quarantine period for the import of eggs and chicks from outside of the UK to 30 days to bring us in line with the EU.”
Opinion was divided over the campaign. Among those supporting it was keen driven game shot Joe Muir. Joe said: “I’ve seen all sorts online about this, but I don’t see what harm it can do to ask for licences. If they say no, they say no. But we need to try everything we can.”
However one gamekeeper with personal experience of DEFRA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) was cynical. The man,whose name we do not have permission to use, said: “APHA and DEFRA don’t care. A local poultry processor was taken to the brink by them over bird flu. It will take him years to recover.”