Photo credits: The Brewers
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 is once again spreading across the EU, with the most recent outbreaks notified by Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Czechia.
Those Member States will now apply the measures foreseen by Directive 2005/94/EC, which include the killing of all birds on affected farms and the establishment of protection, surveillance and restricted zones to contain the spreading of the virus.
Every year on the occasion of outbreaks of HPAI, tens of millions of domestic poultry are killed and farmers are compensated for their losses. However, the situation never seems to improve, which is why HPAI has now become a ‘structural emergency’ in the poultry sector.
Today, Eurogroup for Animals has released a new position paper on this topic. One of the main risk factors for HPAI outbreaks and for the mutation of LPAI (low pathogenic) strains into HPAI strains is the intensive and spatially concentrated poultry production in the EU. This production model is characterised by high stocking densities and genetically identical birds, which are perfect incubators for HPAI.
We are calling for a rethinking of this predominantly intensive and spatially concentrated poultry production in favour of a more diversified sector. More funding should be made available into finding into cost-effective alternatives that can prevent the killing of millions of birds every year.
We also express our concern for the way in which the animals are killed for depopulation purposes during HPAI outbreaks, which may lead to unnecessary suffering for millions of birds. Better biosecurity measures remain essential to reduce the risk of contamination and should be systematically adopted by the sector as a matter of priority.
Elena Nalon – Veterinary Advisor Farm Animals, Eurogroup for Animals