Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Pheasants, poultry and Bird Flu

Last year there was a furore in the British Press when it was discovered that pop singer Madonna was importing pheasants from France, to release for shooting on her estate on the Wiltshire/Dorset border in southern England. In addition to the 1000 pheasants imported from France, she and her husband had also imported another 31,000 from Wales. But this is nothing to the 39 million chicks of various poultry imported into Britain in 1999, or the 11 million adult birds imported in 1998 (Hansard June 2000). And, in answer to a Parliamentary Question from Roger Williams MP, in 2003, 2004, 2005 the imports were around 1 million a year from France alone(figures from Hansard March 2006). But unfortunately the UK government does not actually distinguish between 'poultry' such as pheasants and partridges which are destined for release into the countryside, and those designed for batteries and sheds. A quick check of the government website for trade statistics seems to suggest that trade statics for live poultry are currently being suppressed.

With birds being imported and deliberately released into the countryside, to me the surprise is not that Avian flu is a threat, but that there are not far more diseases in our wild birds and poultry flocks. Local livestock markets have mostly closed, and slaughterhouses have been 'rationalised'. All this means more and more animals are being shipped around the countryside. Combine that with imports, add it to the factory farm conditions many of them are kept under, plus the cocktails of antibiotics and food supplements they are fed (including ground up animal protein), and it is no wonder that we have problems with bovine TB, bird flu, BSE etc etc etc.

Time to take stock and re-evaluate.

1 comment:

  1. So who is going to take stock and evaluate? Underfunded government departments, who wouldn't be allowed to anyway?