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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 11:19 GMT
South: Watch the birdie
Ian Paul
Ian Paul
Producer Politics Show
BBC South

UK poultry flocks at risk

The Politics Show South is broadcast from the front line defending our island nation from a frightening invader.

According to some reports it will decimate our population and possibly change our way of life out of all recognition.

It is avian flu, and the 'front line' is a bird reserve in Weymouth, one of the ports of call for migratory birds.

But just how serious a threat is avian flu? And could the precautions we take to protect ourselves actually be worse than the disease itself?

There is a scary example from recent history ... Foot-and-Mouth disease.

Although the south was spared the ravages of the disease itself, the precautions to stop it spreading had serious consequences for many people in the region.

In the New Forest, businesses began to suffer as the Crown Lands were closed and visitors chose to stay away.

Ross Kempson
Ross Kempson: Could be a touch and go scenario

Some, like the Cyclexperience shop in Brockenhurst saw takings drop by 80%.

Owner Ross Kempson said: "Obviously, big businesses have resources that can see them through a crisis. "For a small business like myself, it is a very touch and go situation.

"I think what everyone must realise is that so many people are involved.

"They are all parts of the jigsaw. They must understand and tolerate each different usage and try to bring that to the table to the benefit of everyone to help get through the crisis."

Roger Gent, who has a farm near Newbury, had cattle during the Foot-and-Mouth disease outbreak.

Roger Gent
Roger Gent: Matter of when not if

Since then, he has diversified into chickens.

He now awaits bird flu: "In my eyes, it is inevitable that it's coming. It is when, not if.

"We must be as ready as we can be. With our bio-security on the farm, we learnt a lot from foot and mouth.

"It is second nature to us and we keep as closed shop as we can."

There are 200m poultry birds in the UK. The industry employs 50,000 people, and exports are worth 247m a year. Losing that would be a heavy blow.

The BSE crisis of the 1990's still casts a long shadow - despite the EU declaring British beef to be safe in 1999, it remains banned in 84 countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Japan.

Are we prepared? Are we over-reacting? Add your views to the debate by sending us an email.

Preston to guest-edit

Next week we have rather a special show. After taking on politician George Galloway in the Celebrity Big Brother house, Ordinary Boy Preston will be turning his hand to guest editing the programme.

Preston will work alongside the Politics Show South team to put together a programme on tackling homelessness in Brighton, an issue close to Preston's heart after donating his Celebrity Big Brother prize money to his local homeless shelter in Hove - the St. Patrick's Night Shelter.

And we are offering one lucky Preston fan the chance to come along to the live broadcast, have a look behind the scenes and meet the man himself.

For the chance to win this special place, send us an email with an idea for a future programme.

The subject should be one you are passionate about, and give us an idea of who you would like to invite onto the programme and why.

The best suggestion will win the invitation.

And remember to include some details about yourself and a contact number.

The Politics Show

Send us an email and we will put your points to our guests on Sunday.

Join Peter Henley live in Weymouth.

The Politics Show on Sunday 12 March 2006 at Noon on BBC One.

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.


Politics from around the UK...

11 Sep 05 |  England


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