The Scottish Government has decided not to impose strict biosecurity controls on poultry keepers north of the border despite Defra declaring the whole of England a bird flu prevention zone.
In the last week wild birds in Dorset and Warwickshire have tested positive for the H5N6 strain of the virus which has been circulating in wild birds across Europe, leading Defra to introduce local prevention measures which were yesterday extended nationwide.
It means all bird keepers must follow strict biosecurity measures in order to prevent the virus spreading to poultry and other domestic birds.
However Rural Secretary Fergus Ewing said that that after consulting Scotland’s chief vet and taking expert advice he had concluded that imposing controls on poultry keepers would not substantially reduce the risk to domestic birds.
“We have looked at circumstances here in Scotland where we have had no reported cases of avian flu. Therefore, at this stage, I do not intend to implement a prevention zone in Scotland,” he said.
“However, we will continue to monitor the situation across the rest of the UK and Europe closely and should circumstance change, then we will of course revisit all available options.
“In the meantime, I would remind all bird keepers – whether major businesses or small flock keepers – to ensure their biosecurity is up to scratch, and to take all possible steps to prevent any contact between their birds and wild birds. Keepers who are concerned about the health or welfare of their flock should seek veterinary advice immediately.”
In England all poultry keepers are now legally required to meet enhanced biosecurity requirements which include ensuring the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources; feeding and watering birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds; minimising movement in and out of bird enclosures; cleaning and disinfecting footwear and keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy; and reducing any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas.
Keepers with more than 500 birds will also be required to take some extra biosecurity measures.
The prevention zone will be in place in England until further notice.