Rural campaigners warn of bird flu ‘ticking timebomb’ for the Wye Valley
Rural campaigners have described the proliferation of intensive poultry farms throughout the Wye Valley as a “ticking timebomb” for the spread of bird flu.
The warning, issued by The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW), follows the introduction of an avian flu “prevention zone” across Wales, England and Scotland earlier this week due to rising case numbers from the largest ever outbreak of the disease in the UK.
From midday on Monday, it became a legal requirement for all bird keepers in the three nations to follow strict measures to protect flocks from bird flu, including keeping free range birds in fenced areas and stringent biosecurity for staff on farms.
Officials say that the avian flu circulates in wild birds and when they migrate to the UK from mainland Europe over the winter, they can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.
Under the prevention zone rules, producers with more than 500 birds must restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, staff must change clothing and footwear before entering enclosures and vehicles will need regular cleaning and disinfecting.
CPRW, which has campaigned for more monitoring of intensive Poultry Units (IPU) that are found along the River Wye catchment area in Powys, has raised concerns that the high density could lead to a huge outbreak of avian influenza.
The group joined a coalition of environmental groups in 2020 calling for a moratorium on IPUs in Wales as it reported evidence that waste from these chicken farms was finding its way into the River Wye in increasing amounts.
As the main way of spreading Bird Flu is through the waste of infected birds, one outbreak in an IPU along the Wye could have catastrophic outcomes it claims.
A CPRW spokesperson said: “The sheer scale of IPUs across Powys and along the River Wye has already had a direct impact on the environment. The river itself has been greatly affected.
“Now we face the possibility of these intensive poultry farms acting like ticking timebombs with the potential to spread bird flu throughout the entire upper Wye and Severn valleys like wildfire which would devastate the wild bird population, and possibly go one to effect livestock and even humans should the virus mutate.”
“We are calling on Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to take urgent action and start monitoring the waste output of these IPUs very closely and as a matter of priority!”
The spokesperson added:” We are asking NRW to consider the sustainability of this level of density of the poultry farms in Powys and confirm that measures are in place to eliminate or reduce the risk of infection of wild birds through spreading of any potentially contaminated bird waste.”
According to the CPRW, in the last five years, over 150 IPUs have been approved by Powys Council, five times more than the rest of Wales.
You can view CPRW’s map of Chicken sheds in Powys here…..
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As I’ve said before on this topic, avian flu is now endemic in the wild bird population, this is why there have been reports all year about sea bird breeding colonies being seriously affected, dead birds being washed up on beaches where other birds feed on the carcasses and spread any virus further inland that way. The issue about migrating birds is, will they be bringing the virus with them or will they succumb to the virus that is already here, the presence of commercial poultry units is a distraction, the virus might have originated in these types of units… Read more »
Fair comment. However the proliferation of industrial scale farming of chicken and other livestock should be stopped and reversed. Before people start complaining about need for cheap food they should consider that the cheaper the food the greater the risk of exposure to contaminants that exist in intensive environments. All livestock should be allowed to exist in free range ( like the old style farmyard and paddocks) That way you end up paying a bit more but would need to eat less of it as the nutrient content wouldn’t be compromised by big pharma and other toxins.