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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Poultry ban 'not needed for UK'
Bird
Dutch farmers must keep birds indoors from Monday
The UK has no plans to follow the Dutch move to prevent the spread of bird flu by banning farmers from keeping fowl outdoors, the government says.

The measures were put in place in the Netherlands after an outbreak of bird flu was confirmed in Russia.

The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) said similar UK action would be disproportionate.

The EU agriculture commission said it was unlikely the outbreak could spread to Europe.

Agriculture minister responsible for animal welfare Ben Bradshaw said the migration at this time of year tends to be north-south, rather than east-west.

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"And don't forget, back in the 2003 outbreak in the Netherlands - a very serious outbreak, which destroyed a fifth of their poultry population, much closer to home than the current outbreaks - we didn't take these measures that are now being suggested by some people that we should take - and we didn't have any outbreak," he said on BBC's World at One.

Defra also said the risk of the virus spreading to the UK would be very low.

The National Farmers Union says it wants an assurance that if farmers in the UK were forced to keep poultry indoors it would be granted an exemption to prevent them losing their free-range status.

Migration route

Spokesman on health and consumer protection for the EU Agriculture Commissioner, Philip Tod, also said the risk was low.

"We know that Australia and New Zealand are at the end of the migration paths for birds from Russia and Kazakhstan, and that these wild birds cross the area most affected in south east Asia.

"For the past two years neither Australia nor New Zealand have suffered cases of avian influenza of the type which we have seen in south east Asia."

There's no vaccine that can be given to the birds, there are no medicines that we can use, so basically it's a precautionary approach we have to take
Hugh Pennington
Aberdeen University

In the Netherlands five million free range chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and other birds will have to be kept indoors from Monday - along with 80 million battery birds that are already under a roof.

The strain is currently not believed to spread between humans - but there are fears that the virus could mutate to a more dangerous form.

Microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington from Aberdeen University said the Dutch ban was a sensible precaution to take:

"One has to take precautionary measures when we think they're appropriate.

"There's no vaccine that can be given to the birds, there are no medicines that we can use, so basically it's a precautionary approach we have to take."

European vets are meeting this week to decide if wider action needs to be taken.


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