Letter sent to warmwell March 6 2007
" I know of no other organic breeding flock of equivalent quality, backed by over 40 years of selection, from which I could obtain stock to restart my flock and so would suffer prolonged financial damage." John Burns
There appears to be growing international support for claims that vaccinating poultry against bird flu will greatly reduce or even prevent onward transmission of the virus from birds which become infected with the disease.
If the claimed containment of the virus is reliably achievable, surely vaccination of poultry should be allowed if only to protect those working with the birds?
This possibility has only recently occurred to me. Previously I had concentrated on trying to get permission to use AI vaccine to protect my breeding flock of organic geese from being killed by the disease or more likely taken by DEFRA in some modern version of the contiguous cull.
I got nowhere with DEFRA despite what I considered a good case on financial grounds as well as a way of preserving commercially valuable genes not easily obtained anywhere else * . And even in the very limited circumstances when they would allow vaccination, it would be no help to me, especially in the breeding season. Expensive ongoing monitoring and a ban on movement of live birds from my holding would wreck the whole point of the business - to provide organic goslings to other organic farmers to rear for their customers.
It was a letter from NHS offering free (human) flu vaccination for me and my helpers which set me thinking. NHS wanted us to be vaccinated to reduce the chances of us suffering normal flu at the same time as we meet the HP bird flu virus. Such a coincidence, the NHS believes would increase the chances of the HP virus mutating to a form transmissible from human to human. The NHS letter stressed the vaccine offered would NOT protect us against bird flu.
In other words it is considered acceptable for us to risk contracting bird fly from our poultry, but we cannot be allowed to have normal flu at the same time because that would mean everyone else would be at risk.
* *I know of no other organic breeding flock of equivalent quality, backed by over 40 years of selection, from which I could obtain stock to restart my flock and so would suffer prolonged financial damage. Organic rules would demand that non-organic birds would have to be bought in at not more than three days old and reared under fully organic conditions. Heavy culling would be necessary in pursuit of breeding attributes as well as carcass quality. Yearling eggs would produce small goslings not wanted by the trade. There would be little income for two years from the spring following the cull. Building up a quality productive flock would take donkeys years and much effort and expense. Why bother if any future flock would still be potentially exposed to HP bird flu?
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