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Christmas turkeys are at risk UK farmers
2 Oct 2022

Britain has been fighting its largest ever outbreak of bird flu, and cases continue to rise

The largest outbreak of bird flu in UK history might affect the supply of turkeys and could jeopardize the traditional Christmas celebrations, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has said. The warning came as the government has reported more than 150 cases of the disease across the country in less than a year.

In an interview with Sky News, James Mottershead, chairman of the NFU Poultry Board, claimed that if avian influenza gets into turkeys, it could cause "holy carnage."

"That could cause real supply chain issues in the run-up to Christmas time," Mottershead said.

He explained that if a farm is designated as an infected premise, it can be "out of production" for up to a year.

The official's warning came the day after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) ordered the "humane" culling of tens of thousands of turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens in Norfolk and Suffolk. This was due to the discovery of several cases of bird flu at three local farms.

Late last month, Dr. Christine Middlemiss, the UK's chief veterinary officer, said in a statement that "a growing number of bird flu cases on commercial farms and in backyard birds" has been driven by "high levels of disease within wild birds."

She stressed that while taking biosecurity measures and maintaining high hygiene standards are paramount to prevent outbreaks, the number of cases is expected to rise over the coming months due to the return of migratory birds to the UK.

The risk to human health remains "very low," according to DEFRA.


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