A LITTLE known Government consultation process designed to gauge public opinion on the import of endangered wildlife species ends next Monday - but it has been thrown into stark relief by the admission that deadly avian flu might already have entered Britain in rare imported birds.
For the matter under consultation is an EU initiative aimed at the import of mammals, mainly primate apes, and does not involve birds.
However, animal lovers are being urged by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to have their say on prospective new laws which would ban the keeping of many species of apes and monkeys as pets. In future, imports of many rare mammals would be restricted to zoos and research embellishments working to conserve endangered species.
However, since the discovery of a case of the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus at a bird quarantine centre in Essex, animal welfare groups and many politicians are demanding that the import of rare birds as pets should also face a total ban.
Anyone wishing to express a view on a possible mammal import ban should visit www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/current.htm
In the meantime, Defra vets have made the embarrassing confession that samples taken from birds infected in the Essex incident have been mixed up in their laboratory so they can no longer be certain which batch of imports brought in the virus.