With millions of chickens and ducks culled, farmers say only a vaccine can save the poultry sector from the ‘invisible enemy’
Warning bells are ringing across the continent over an unstoppable wave of avian flu that farmers fear could lead to poultry farm bans in vulnerable wetland areas.
In the Netherlands, more than 3.7 million chickens, ducks and turkeys have been culled in the most serious outbreak ever.
In France, where breeding ducks is popular, the government said that 16 million farmed birds had been destroyed, with farmers seeing their livelihoods collapse “like a house of cards”.
Earlier this year, the Dutch environment minister, Henk Staghouwer, admitted that bird flu was now “unavoidable” in a country where 19% of the surface area is water. There had been 66 outbreaks since October 2021. Now, 10 weeks later, the figure is up to 77 and the embattled Staghouwer - in the face of broader farmer protests about cutting nitrogen compound emissions - resigned, saying he was “not the right person” for the job.
A proposal in a Dutch government report to ban poultry farms entirely in areas near water has also sparked fierce opposition.