The return of avian influenza accentuates tensions in the poultry sector

New bird flu alert: the Ministry of Agriculture has formalized the detection of a first outbreak of infection in professional breeding, Saturday, November 27. The poultry farm affected by this highly contagious virus, located in the town of Warhem, in the north, near the Belgian border, has 160,000 laying hens. These poultry are confined in a building without being in a cage, and their eggs bear the number 2, identifying the so-called “ground” farms.

Since the end of the summer, France had already declared four cases of avian influenza in wildlife and three in poultry yards in the territory. Knowing that 26 European countries are today affected by these viruses, with a total of more than 400 outbreaks listed in breeding. As of November 5, faced with this progression of the epizootic in neighboring countries, the Ministry of Agriculture had set the risk of avian influenza at “high”. A threshold which now forces all farmers to confine their poultry.

Read also Avian influenza: poultry once again confined in France to avoid contamination

This very strict regulation was established following the last avian influenza crisis, which had wreaked havoc in the South-West, center of the production of foie gras. Between December 2020 and May, nearly 500 farms had been contaminated and around 3.5 million birds, primarily ducks, had to be eliminated. At that time, already, beyond the biosecurity measures in the farms, the ax had fallen on the open air farms, with the obligation to park the animals in buildings. Except that the rule had exceptions. It did not apply to lots of less than 3,200 birds.

“A war against peasant breeding”

This time, the constraint hardens. And arouses strong reactions. “This decision condemns all outdoor breeders to be outlawed or to disappear, while nothing is done to regulate the massive flows of animals and people, orchestrated by industrial sectors. However, it is the concentration of farms and these flows which, as during the last crisis, allow the spread of the virus ”, reacted the unions of the Confédération paysanne and the Movement for the Defense of Family Farmers (Modef), very upset against what they consider to be “A war against peasant breeding”.

In the field, outdoor breeders must adapt. For Jean-Michel Schaeffer, president of Anvol, the inter-profession for broiler poultry, based in Geispolsheim, in the Bas-Rhin, the henhouse is, for the moment, in crawl space. But, during the previous phase of confinement, between December 2020 and May, he reared his Label Rouge d’Alsace chickens inside the buildings for three months.

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