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All farm poultry must be kept indoors as bird flu spreads in France

Millions of birds have already been slaughtered, threatening egg production and farmer livelihoods

A photo of chickens in a poultry farm

More than 21 million birds have already been slaughtered in connection with the bird flu epidemic Pic: David Tadevosian / Shutterstock

All commercial farm poultry birds must be kept indoors across France, as the bird flu risk rises from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’ nationwide, a new decree states. More than 21 million birds have already been slaughtered.

The decree was published in the Journal officiel on November 10 and states that all farmers and commercial owners must keep their birds indoors.

Since August 1 this year, 18 European countries have reported cases of the virus, show figures from the animal health surveillance agency d'Épidémiosurveillance en Santé Animale (ESA).

Germany and France have reported the most affected farms.

In France, the main production areas of Brittany and Pays de la Loire, as well as the department of Deux-Sèvres in the west, have already been subject to a ‘keep birds indoors’ order since mid-October. 

However, the virus has continued to spread. It was discovered in Gard last week, after another farm was identified as infected in Dordogne a few weeks prior. This was the first case in the southwest.

Millions of birds slaughtered, millions of euros in compensation

More than 21 million birds had already been slaughtered as a result of the spread, from mid-November 2021 to mid-May this year. The virus began to be reported again from June and July.

Read more: New measures brought in after seagulls die of bird flu in Normandy  

This early arrival (in comparison to the usual arrival of viruses in autumn) had already prompted authorities to raise the risk from ‘negligible’ to ‘moderate’ across the entire country.

Yves-Marie Beaudet, president of egg group le Comité national pour la promotion de l'œuf (CNPO), told La Dépêche: “No type of farm is being spared. This is scaring everyone.” He said that the virus also presents a risk for egg production. 

Joël Limouzin added: “Farmers are traumatised. Some have stopped producing and may not restart come spring.” He said that the industry was waiting for vaccines to be ready. These are currently in the experimental stage in Europe. Vaccines are the only way to stop the ‘endemic’ virus, he said.

He said that without the vaccines, he is not sure how producers will be able to “continue” if millions of birds have to be euthanised every year. 

Even before the virus took hold again in summer this year, the farmer compensation bill had already reached €1billion for the state.

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