April 17 2023
Following a full risk assessment, it has been announced that as of 00:01 on Tuesday 18 April 2023, the mandatory housing measures for poultry and captive birds, which have been in place across England and Wales to help stop the spread of Avian Influenza (bird flu), will be lifted.
Following ongoing monitoring using the latest scientific evidence and a vigorous risk assessment, bird flu risk levels have been reduced meaning our girls will no longer need to be housed, unless they are in a Protection Zone. The decision means that from 25 April, eggs laid by hens with access to outside range areas can return to being marketed as ‘Free-Range’ eggs.
The scale of avian influenza outbreaks across the UK and Europe have been unprecedented, with over 330 cases confirmed across the country since late October 2021. While the risk of bird flu has been reduced to ‘medium’, the enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) will remain in force as infection may still be circulating in the environment for several more weeks.
All our producer farmers will be spending the days leading up the release preparing outside areas for the release of the hens; including the cleaning and disinfection of hard surfaces and fencing off ponds or standing water, to protect the hens’ welfare to the highest standards.
Dr Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, states:
“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.
“It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers and vets who have played their part in keeping flocks safe this winter that we are in a position to take this action. However, the unprecedented nature of this outbreak has proven it’s more important than ever for bird keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.”
Scrupulous biosecurity is the most effective method of disease control available, and all bird keepers should always apply enhanced measures to prevent the risk of future outbreaks, which is something we take very seriously at St Ewe.
The UKHSA advise that the available evidence suggests viruses currently circulating in birds in the UK do not spread easily to people and food standards bodies advise that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products, including eggs.
Bird keepers should report suspicion of disease in England to the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301, in Wales contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. In Northern Ireland contact DAERA on 0300 200 7840 or your local DAERA Direct Regional Office. Keepers should familiarise themselves with our avian flu advice.
Members of the public are reminded not to touch dead wild birds and are encouraged to report findings of dead wild birds using the new online reporting system or by calling the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77).
For more information please visit the Government website.