The Bishop of Exeter received the following written answers on 25th April 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked Her Majesty’s Government how many cases of avian flu were reported in the UK in the years (1) 2019, (2) 2020, (3) 2021, and (4) 2022 so far.
Lord Benyon (Con): In 2019, one case of notifiable avian influenza was confirmed in the UK, a case of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) H5N3 in England.
During the 2020/2021 avian influenza outbreak, between November 2020 and March 2021 there were 26 cases of notifiable avian influenza confirmed including in England one case of LPAI H5N2, one case of LPAI H5N3, one case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H5N1 and 18 cases of HPAI H5N8; in Scotland one case of HPAI H5N8 and one case of HPAI H5N1; in Wales one case of HPAI H5N8 and in Northern Ireland two cases of HPAI H5N8.
To date in the 2021/2022 avian influenza outbreak, between 26 October 2021 and 30 March 2022, 109 cases of notifiable avian influenza have been confirmed, all HPAI H5N1, including 89 cases in England; 9 cases in Scotland; 5 cases in Wales and 6 cases in Northern Ireland.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of outbreaks of avian flu.
Lord Benyon (C0n): The UK is currently experiencing the largest outbreak of Avian Influenza with (as of 30 March 2022) 109 cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 confirmed in poultry & captive birds (89 in England, 5 in Wales, 9 in Scotland, 6 in Northern Ireland). To date, 2.4 million birds have been culled and disposed, a small proportion of overall poultry production (c.20m birds a week).
Through the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) found dead wild bird surveillance scheme, there have been 841 findings of avian influenza in wild birds, in 242 locations involving 39 bird species in 73 counties. All findings in wild birds have been the HPAI H5N1 strain with the exception of a single finding of HPAI H5N8. This includes carcases collected and submitted to APHA for testing up to the 21 March 2022.
The UK Health Security Agency has said that avian influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low. The Food Standards Agency has said that, on the basis of the current scientific evidence, avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.
In addition to the disease control impacts outlined above, following the introduction of mandatory housing as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in force across the UK, the 16 week “grace period” during which eggs from birds which were intended to be free-range may be marketed as free-range even though they are housed, expired at 00:01 on 21 March 2022. In most cases the eggs from continuously housed birds from the end of the grace period would meet the criteria to be sold as “barn eggs”. Changes to labelling and point of sales information are required to reflect this change in status.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked Her Majesty’s Government how much compensation was paid to farmers in the UK in (1) 2019, (2) 2020, and (3) 2021, in respect of avian flu.
Lord Benyon (Con): Compensation payments are devolved. In line with the Animal Health Act 1981, compensation is payable for healthy birds only. There is no compensation available for sick birds or birds that have died. Compensation is not paid for consequential losses, including business interruption caused by control measures, nor for eggs or poultry meat.
In 2019, there was a single case of notifiable avian influenza confirmed in England. As the amount of compensation that individual owners receive is not disclosed, the compensation paid has been combined with payments made in 2020.
In 2020 (including 2019) £103,000 compensation was paid to poultry owners in England.
In 2021, £2.65 million compensation was paid to poultry owners in England.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked Her Majesty’s Government what contingency plans they have made in the event of further widespread outbreaks of avian flu.
Lord Benyon (Con): Defra’s objective in tackling any outbreak of avian influenza is to eradicate the disease as quickly as possible from the UK poultry and captive-bird population and regain UK World Organisation for Animal Health disease-free status. Defra’s approach is set out in the Notifiable Avian Disease Control Strategy for Great Britain(opens in a new tab) (copy attached to this answer on Hansard) and supported by the United Kingdom contingency plan for exotic notifiable diseases of animals(opens in a new tab) (copy attached on Hansard).
In Great Britain the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) leads Government action on animal disease control and has outbreak response plans in place. These include measures to contract companies to support eradication and cover such matters as the deployment of non-Government vets and experts in culling and disposal of birds. APHA also works closely with other agencies in the Defra group to provide additional capacity.