- European Union countries are split over the best way
to respond to the threat of a bird flu pandemic.
- The Netherlands yesterday ordered farmers to keep poultry
inside to prevent bird flu spreading into the country.
- However, the UK played down the threat posed to domestic
fowl from migratory birds. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs said it was not planning any measures to keep poultry indoors.
- The split will become even more apparent when veterinary
experts from the 25 member states meet on Thursday to discuss the outbreak
of the disease which was discovered in Siberia last month.
- The tough Dutch measures came as Germany was also considering
stepping up efforts to avoid infection by the disease, which can kill humans
and wreck poultry industries. The discovery of the H5N1 virus in Siberia
has triggered concerns that the lethal strain that has killed more than
60 people in south-east Asia could travel across the Urals into Europe,
infecting humans and hitting poultry production.
- While most of its 80m poultry are kept indoors, the Netherlands
is concerned an outbreak among its 5.5m free-range birds could ravage the
rest of the industry.
- Fears of the disease arriving in birds migrating from
Russia are particularly high in the country because it was badly hit by
an outbreak of bird flu in 2003.
- The spread of the virus two years ago among its nearly
2,000 poultry farmers led to the slaughter of 30m animals at a cost of
hundreds of millions of euros.
- "Poultry farmers are very afraid that this strain
will arrive in western Europe. In 2003 many farmers were hit hard by what
happened and it took a lot of time for them to get going again. Nobody
wants this to happen ever again," said Klass Johan Osinga, of the
LTO Dutch farmers' union.
- The Netherlands last year exported almost ¤500m
worth of eggs, making it the seventh largest producer among the EU's then
15 countries. In 2003 it produced nearly 600,000 tonnes of poultry meat.
- Dutch farmers will continue to label the produce from
the 5.5m birds as free range and organic until told otherwise by the European
Commission, Mr Osinga said, as they would still have organic feed and appropriate
- The Dutch moves are the toughest yet imposed in the EU's
25 member states since Russian authorities confirmed the H5N1 strain of
bird flu, potentially lethal to humans, in six regions.
- Russia warned that the disease could spread to Europe
and the Middle East, as migratory birds moved into warmer areas before
winter after nesting in Siberia.
- Germany may bring forward a proposed order to keep flocks
of poultry in cages to further reduce the risk of the spread of bird flu,
as politicians yesterday dragged the issue into the campaign for its general
election on September 18.
- Poultry industry representatives also called for the
order to be introduced earlier than planned, but farmers using free-range
poultry were more cautious. Thomas Dosch, chair of the Bioland association
of ecological farmers said that "exceptions are needed from the order",
such as allowing birds to use open-air pens covered by netting.