THE LATEST outbreak of avian 'flu on a farm at Diss on the Norfolk/Suffolk border comes at the worst possible time for poultry farmers as they gear up for the make-or-break Christmas market.
The environment department Defra imposed a ten kilometre movement restriction zone round the affected farm at 21.45 pm last night (Monday) and 5,000 turkeys, ducks and chickens were being slaughtered.
Outbreaks of bird flu are going to be a sad reality across Europe
Neil Parish - MEP
Vets are working to establish whether it is a case of the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease, which can be fatal to humans and has killed several hundred victims in South East Asia.
The NFU issued a statement saying that this was yet another disaster to farmers after a year in which they have already been plagued by foot and mouth, blue tongue disease, floods and torrential rain which ruined thousands of acres of crops.
And in Strasbourg, MEPS insisted that "DEFRA must move swiftly and ruthlessly to identify, contain and trace the origins of the Norfolk bird flu outbreak."
Neil Parish MEP, Conservative chairman of the European Parliament's agriculture committee, who was responsible for steering the European Union's bird flu preparation directive, now being enacted through the European Parliament, went on:
"This is an extremely worrying development and for farmers it is the absolute last thing they need. DEFRA is right to close the area down quickly and must ensure that the exclusion zone is properly enforced. They must act ruthlessly to stamp out the disease and identify its source.
"Outbreaks of bird flu are going to be a sad reality across Europe; it is how our government handles them that will be important.
"DEFRA must keep all poultry keepers informed. During the last outbreak, keepers complained that not enough information was being provided and not quickly enough. Farmers must know exactly what they have to do."
- Defra has set up a bird flu hotline for people seeking more information:08459-335577