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Last Updated: Monday, 27 February 2006, 13:17 GMT
Trade 'puts UK at bird flu risk'
Swans (PA)
Swans in France are confirmed as carrying the H5N1 strain
The UK is being put at further risk of bird flu by the import from Europe of pet birds which do not have to be quarantined, a welfare group has said.

Greg Glendell of Birds First, which campaigns to end the bird trade, said that while the front door was "bolted" the back door was still "open".

He warned it was too easy to import birds from France to sell at pet fairs.

The government said birds could not be imported from a facility which had had avian flu diagnosed within 30 days.

On Monday, it was confirmed that 15 swans in France had been found to be carrying the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

It comes after a turkey farm from the same region was found to be contaminated with bird flu.

It was the first confirmed outbreak of bird flu in commercial poultry in the European Union.

'Risk to agriculture'

According to Mr Glendell, the trade in birds - at dozens of pet fairs across Britain every weekend - was "tiny" compared to the agriculture sector.

At the fairs, bird fanciers meet in scout huts and school halls across the UK to buy and sell pet birds.

The main problem will be migratory birds and not the bird trade
Les Rance, Parrot Society UK

"The effect on agriculture is going to far outweigh any effects on the bird trade," said Mr Glendell.

But Les Rance, secretary of the Parrot Society UK, said there would be "nothing to gain" by preventing imports of birds from Europe.

"The main problem will be migratory birds and not the bird trade," he said.

"A lot of caged birds are kept indoors. How are they going to have contact with wild migratory birds, who are the greatest risk?"

A spokesman for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said that foreign facilities exporting birds to the UK must be registered by the competent authorities in the country of origin.

Imported birds must also be accompanied by a health certificate, the spokesman added.


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