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Row over bird 'flu escalates

[Friday 07 December 2007]

THE environment department Defra has come under heavy attack from the Royal Society for Birds for trying to blame the Norfolk bird 'flu epidemic on wild birds when alleged failed biosecurity measures are the most likely culprits.

Thousands of turkeys, ducks and chickens have been slaughtered in East Anglia, raising fears of a turkey shortage this Christmas. But Defra attempts to blame the spread of the disease on wild birds has infuriated the RSPB.

It issued a highly critical statement which read: "Defra's preliminary epidemiological report, published on its website, ignores the likelihood that one infected commercial turkey or duck brought the disease to the farm. Defra also failed to take action quickly enough to prevent the potential spread of the virus into wild birds after its discovery."

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's Conservation Director, said: "There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that wild birds are to blame for bird flu in Suffolk. A migrating bird could have carried the disease here without showing symptoms but imported poultry could have done exactly the same.

"Defra has stepped up its monitoring of wild birds in the area and has unearthed nothing to say that wild birds are the carriers. The government openly admits that biosecurity at the farm is poor. It has been poor ever since bird flu was found and there is no reason to think it was any better before the outbreak.

"There have been no cases of bird flu in wild birds in the UK or western Europe since August and the source of the Suffolk outbreak remains a mystery. It is staggering that Defra has taken almost three weeks to take action to prevent wild birds becoming the latest victims of the disease."

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