More than half a million birds culled in UK’s worst bird flu outbreak yet

The impact on Britain’s birds

Of infected premises, Dr Middlemiss said: “All the birds on the premises have to be culled because of the ongoing risk of infection that they pose. The total number is something like half a million will now have been culled.”

However, she stresses that the outbreak is not expected to affect supplies of meat and eggs due to the overall large number of chickens processed in the UK.

According to DEFRA, more than 29 million laying hens and 116 million broilers exist in the UK at any one time

The types of premises among the infected range from the large commercial farms, to small flocks kept in gardens or yards and bird sanctuaries.

Peregrine falcons, curlews, barnacle geese and herring gulls are just some of the wild bird species that have been found fatally affected by the disease.

Asked if bird flu was still spreading, Middlemiss said: “We’re continuing to get the new detections. I confirmed another two last night and that’s the rate we’ve been going at for the last week or so.

“We’re seeing this as a huge pressure of infection from our wild birds.”

Dr Middlemiss said: “It used to be that we would have a reasonable-sized outbreak and then have two or three quiet years. But that’s not happening now.

“We’re seeing this across the whole of Europe. We need to understand better why we’re getting these ongoing infections every year.”

The root of the problem

Asked if the climate crisis was to blame for the increased infection, Dr Middlemiss said: “We don’t know specifically, but it’s certainly one of the thoughts that our experts are having.

“The birds migrate to the north of Russia over the summer and mix with other birds on other global flight pathways and exchange the viruses. So it’s quite plausible that with climate change and change in pathways that different mixing is going on.”

Speaking to Plant Based News, founder and director of vegan charity, Viva!, Juliet Gellatley, said, “The real problem is factory farming.

“Whilst wild birds undoubtedly contribute to the local spread of the virus in the wild, it is human commercial activities, particularly those associated with poultry, that are the major factors responsible for the global spread of bird flu.

“Whichever way you look at it, domesticated poultry are massively over-represented among the world’s bird population.”

Factory farms provide the ideal environment for diseases to spread and mutate. Read more about poultry farming in the UK.

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