No slaughter for 12,000 Lot-et-Garonne bird flu ducks

The department has decided not to slaughter the animals, which are infected with H5N3, a weak strain of avian flu (photo for illustration)

The 12,000 ducks in the Lot-et-Garonne infected with a low-risk strain of bird flu will not be killed, it was confirmed today.

The department has decided not to slaughter the animals, which are infected with H5N3, a weak strain of avian flu, reports French newspaper Le Monde today.

The ducks and the farm itself - which is a breeder and foie gras producer in Monhabus near Marmande, in the north-west of the Lot-et-Garonne - has been in quarantine since December 1, but no further measures will be imposed due to the low risk and low impact on the animals themselves, confirmed the department, working with the minister for agriculture and food agency the Direction générale de l’alimentation (DGAL).

The birds are known as “roe ducks”, and are sterile hybrids created by crossing two species of duck. They will later be used to make foie gras.

The decision not to slaughter the animals has been seen as significant, especially since this farm in particular was already affected by the outbreaks of bird flu seen in France at the beginning of 2017.

Nearly four million ducks were slaughtered across France at that time, affecting nearly 80% of the stocks of animals used to make foie gras.

This measure was imposed at that point to limit the spread of the H5N8 strain of the disease, which is said to be far more virulent and dangerous for the animals themselves (although neither strain can be passed to humans).

“The State has finally opened its eyes,” said Serge Bousquet-Cassagne, president of the chamber of agriculture in the Lot-et-Garonne, talking to Le Monde about the latest decision not to slaughter.

“We’re talking about [the ducks having] a little cold, with no lasting consequences for their health, and certainly no risk for consumers. We are not going to systematically kill animals [for nothing].”

Since the spread of the virulent infection across Occitanie in 2016 and early 2017, new biosecurity measures have been put in place, with trucks and vans travelling between farms ordered to have disinfection records and to be regularly sprayed with disinfectant.

Overall, the disease has caused the national foie gras industry to take a hit; production is down 22%, according to foie gras group the Comité interprofessionnel des palmipèdes à foie gras (Cifog).

This year’s yield has plateaued at 11,000 tonnes, figures show, with 23 million birds in production compared to 29 million in 2016.

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