Bird classes abandoned as Otley falls victim to avian flu

The Otley Show, the region's first big agricultural event of the season, has been forced to cancel its poultry section, following the confirmation of two cases of avian flu in Lancashire.

Poultry Judge Jeff Maddock at the 2015 Otley Show

Organisers of the one-day show on May 20, the oldest of its type in the UK, had previously indicated that the classes would remain open and had extended the deadline for entries, but said yesterday they were acting “in the absence of any firm instruction or guidance from Defra”.

The show’s pigeon and egg sections will go ahead as planned.

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Jon Grubb, welfare officer for the show’s poultry classes, which normally attract around 400 entries, said: “All on the poultry committee have pushed as hard as we can to stage a poultry show if at all possible, but the situation as it stands means that we can not reasonably expect to hold a poultry show without an unacceptable degree of risk.”

The latest case of avian flu was confirmed in a backyard flock of nine chickens and ducks at Thornton, near Blackpool, last weekend. It followed the culling of around 30 birds at a small chicken farm nearby.

Public Health England said the risk to public health from the virus was “very low” and the Food Standards Agency has stressed that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for consumers.

Defra said after the second outbreak: “The UK’s deputy chief veterinary officer has confirmed H5N8 avian flu in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks near Thornton, Wyre, Lancashire.

“A 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone have been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.”

The H5N8 strain was identified in farmed and wild birds last December, and has been confirmed at farms in Northumberland, Suffolk, Lancashire and Lincolnshire, and in backyard flocks in North Yorkshire and Carmarthenshire. A wild buzzard in North Yorkshire was also found to be infected.

An “influenza prevention zone” is in place across England and requires all keepers, whether commercial or pet owners, to restrict movement in and out of bird enclosures, and to feed birds indoors.

A ban on poultry gatherings is in place until May 15. Defra says it expects to lift it next week, “subject to some additional identity and health checks and biosecurity measures”.