Defra has ordered all keepers and farmers of poultry to house their birds indoors until the 28th of February. This is an extended period from the previously advised 30 days, announced on the 6th December.
The Government’s response to the recent outbreaks across Europe would suggest that bird flu originates and is spread from wild birds. In fact, the vast majority of UK outbreaks have been in indoor farms, and the evidence shows that a combination of different methods of transmission are in play – not just wild birds.
Blow to the free-range industry
The extension of the confinement period means that some birds, who would otherwise have been free-range, will have been kept indoors for their whole lives. This is a terrible blow for free-range farmers, who choose to give their birds outside access for the benefit of their welfare.
We know consumers care about farm animal welfare, and companies have been making progress in improving conditions on farms. This latest development could undermine that progress. Free-range farmers should be enabled to continue to farm with high welfare standards.
Many of the emergency slaughter methods currently used are inhumane. If birds do need to be culled it is of paramount importance that this is carried out humanely, ensuring the animals are rendered immediately unconscious.
Factory farming: the real culprit
Philip Lymbery, our CEO, said: “Wild birds are yet again being scapegoated while the root causes of the outbreak are being conveniently ignored. Intensive farming, where tens of thousands of birds are crammed into confined spaces, provides the perfect pathway for virulent strains of bird flu to develop.
“Instead of ordering all poultry indoors – a measure which has clearly proved ineffective as a precaution – we should be putting a stop to these cruel methods of farming which put animals and humans alike at risk.”