To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment she has made of the effect on free-range producers of the definition of new avian flu higher risk areas; and if she will make a statement.
As part of our Department’s continued measures to control and eradicate H5N8, a new Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was put in place on 28 February. This zone continues to require that all keepers of poultry and captive birds observe heightened biosecurity requirements regardless of their location. Subject to these measures being put in place, the majority of keepers will no longer be required to house their birds.
Within England, there are some areas that are at a higher risk of H5N8 due to their proximity to substantial inland or coastal bodies of water where wild waterfowl collect. The identification of these areas was based on expert advice in regards to the latest veterinary and ornithological data and has been reviewed by leading experts. In these Higher Risk Areas, which will cover around 25 per cent of poultry premises, mandatory housing or the full range netting of outside areas will be required. This may temporarily result in the loss of Free Range status for keepers in these areas unless they apply netting of range, rather than housing.
During this unprecedented period of high risk, the Secretary of State has taken a decision which is based on the best scientific and veterinary advice in order to control disease and protect our poultry industry. Effective disease control will always be Defra’s priority: disease outbreaks cause birds to suffer, damage businesses and cost the UK taxpayer millions. No significant disruption to the supply of Free Range eggs after 28 February is anticipated.