Sunday, October 1, 2023
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Gamebird releases and chicken/poultry flu – an astounding threat to take – Mark Avery

Pheasant. Photograph: Tim Melling

In the present day the RSPB requires a moratorium on gamebird releases, due to chicken/poultry flu, in an article within the Guardian.

I’m fascinated about chicken flu and in gamebirds.

Because of Wild Justice’s exercise on gamebird releases I’m quoted on the very finish of the article. The quote I gave the Guardian was barely longer than what they used (I’m not complaining) and what I really stated was this:

Given how little is known concerning the unfold of avian flu it is senseless to launch tens of thousands and thousands of captive-bred birds into the countryside for taking pictures (however then once more – it by no means does!). They represent an pointless risk to wild birds and home poultry. Because of a mixture of Wild Justice’s profitable authorized problem (which limits releases in England), Brexit and avian flu in continental Europe (from which thousands and thousands of gamebird eggs and chicks are imported in regular years) UK launch numbers might be decrease in 2022 – however will nonetheless quantity to thousands and thousands of gamebirds except the authorities act now.


I solely point out that as a result of I’m now going to touch upon Defra’s quote within the article – and I don’t know precisely what they initially stated.  However right here is the printed quote from Defra:

We recognise the numerous risk posed by extremely pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) to the UK’s treasured wild chicken populations,” a spokesperson stated. “There’s a ban on releasing gamebirds in all management zones, and companies that want to launch them outdoors of zones are required to take care of stringent biosecurity requirements and report any indicators of avian influenza to minimise the unfold of illness.


This lays naked Defra’s psychological block on chicken flu – it could’t get its head round wild birds in any respect.  All Defra is saying is that in areas very near the only a few industrial premises with current outbreaks of chicken/poultry flu then gamebird releases aren’t allowed. Massive deal!

We form of know, even from Defra’s pitifully insufficient so-called surveillance in wild birds (see right here for earlier blogs) that chicken/poultry flu is now in all places, by which I imply within the final 5 weeks: from White-tailed Eagles in Argyll and Bute to Mallard in Braintree, from Puffins in Fife to  Mute Swans and Canada Geese in Nottingham, from Herring Gulls in Bristol to a spread of gull species in Shetland, Orkney, Moray, Highland, Borders, Tyneside, Sunderland, Norfolk, Huntingdonshire, Essex, London and Sussex, and from a Gannet in  Pembrokeshire to a Mute Swan in Mansfield (see Defra web site on circumstances in wild birds).  The entire nation is a chicken/poultry flu zone.

And but, and but, Defra is content material to launch into the countryside doubtlessly as many (in all probability not as many – see my quote above for the explanation why) non-native gamebirds as the complete wild chicken inhabitants put collectively? Actually? There might be a Purple-legged Partridge or Pheasant launched for each Robin, Blackbird and Wren within the nation, and one for each duck, goose and swan, and one for each crow, woodpecker and pigeon, and one for each… properly you might have obtained the purpose although Defra has not. One captive-bred, non-native gamebird for each wild chicken at a time when chicken/poultry flu is sort of in all places (though we don’t fairly know that as a result of the Defra surveillance is woeful).

It’s tough to name captive-bred, non-native gamebirds wildlife, on this nation, however given Defra’s keenness in charge wild animals as illness reservoirs that is an astounding threat to take. If Defra actually believes, as they carry on saying, that wild birds are the primary risk to poultry (which they could be) then how does including tens of thousands and thousands extra gamebirds to the countryside appear to be something apart from an motion that can construct up extra bother this winter?


I’ve to confess that once I first heard of the RSPB place on gamebird releases I puzzled whether or not they have been stretching issues a bit – however now I don’t.  I feel they’re proper. And Defra is caught on the hons of a dilemma of its personal making and wishes to clarify to us all how gamebird releases are protected and risk-free, and subsequently why they’re letting them go forward presently with chicken flu being so prevalent.




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