Border MP calls for more support for famers after half of Christmas birds culled due to avian-flu

It comes as over a million Christmas birds have died or been culled this year due to the outbreak. Credit: ITV News

A Border MP has called on the Government to provide more support for poultry farmers during what he says is "the worst" outbreak of bird flu.

MP for Penrith and the Border Dr Neil Hudson has highlighted the effects the disease is having on the mental health of people working on the front line of disease control.

He says there should be an international approach to the problem as diseases do not respect borders, and farmers should get compensation earlier in the cull process.

It comes as the Chief Executive of British Poultry Council, Richard Griffiths, told the EFRA Committee that of the usual 1.2 or 1.3 million free-range birds grown for Christmas, around half have been directly culled.

Dr Neil Hudson said: "This year, we are facing the worst Avian Influenza outbreak which is already having a huge impact on agri-food businesses, rural communities, and consumers.

"Bird populations, wild and domestic, across the UK and Europe have been devastated.

"Our urgent EFRA Inquiry is so important as by looking at the causes of the crisis and how it has been handled so far then we can make evidence-based recommendations to Government.

"I am urging the Government to provide more support to poultry farmers and to really get behind securing and boosting the long term resilience of the Animal and Plant Health Agency."

A government spokesperson said: "We have taken decisive action to tackle this disease and have worked closely with farmers to put infection control measures in place to limit the risk of it spreading further.

"Outbreak numbers have levelled-off in recent weeks suggesting that the recent housing orders are starting to have an impact.

"Sadly approximately 1.4 million turkeys, some of which are free range, have been culled, but around 11 million turkeys are produced in the UK every year, meaning that there will still be a good supply of Christmas turkeys.

"These outbreaks are understandably very concerning for the impact they have on individual turkey farmers and we are working closely with them to provide the support they need."

Avian Influenza is a highly contagious disease affecting both poultry and wild birds.

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