by Adrian Blackmore

The Countryside Alliance, along with other organisations, has been in close contact with the relevant government departments and civil servants regarding the Avian Influenza outbreak in France, which has been preventing the import of birds, chicks and hatching eggs ahead of the forthcoming shooting season.

French and UK authorities have been trying to find a way forward, but despite the reassurances of some French and British game farmers, this has not been possible as both EU and UK law prevent their import for 90 days after an outbreak has ended. And the latest figures from the French government show a slight resurgence in cases in the Vendee and Pays de la Loire areas of France, where the majority of French game farms are located.

Whilst changes to EU law shortened the period for which restrictions would apply, with the 90-day rule no longer applying to intra-EU trade, those changes were introduced after Brexit. They therefore do not apply to the UK, and legislation remains in place preventing the import of birds, chicks and eggs to the UK for 90 days after an outbreak has ended. The shooting sector is enormously important to the rural economy, and having had the last two years interrupted by the covid pandemic, everyone was looking forward to getting back to normal this autumn. The fact that no birds are now expected to be sourced from France this year will therefore come as bitter blow, affecting as it will not just those that manage shoots, or are employed on shoot days, but also numerous businesses across the countryside. These include pubs, hotels, caterers, and gun shops, many of which will see a significant drop in business as shoots either have to reduce or cancel all their days this season. The impact on the rural economy, and the livelihoods of many, is likely to be considerable.

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