France to cull 800,000 birds to check avian flu

Paris: France on Thursday launched a farm bird culling campaign that could affect up to 800,000 birds in an attempt to avoid the spread of avian flu.

The cull, according to the initial response programme, was due to continue until January 20 in the departments of Gers, Landes and the Haute-Pyrenees, where the pathogenic avian influenza has gained ground, a French Ministry of Agriculture official told Efe news.

The official pointed out the operation could affect up to 800.000 birds, although the figure may be lower if the authorities can ascertain that further propagation of the avian flu has ceased.

All healthy web-footed birds bred outdoors, reared in a geographical area covering the three aforementioned departments, and predetermined by the Ministry of Agriculture will be sacrificed.

Some breeding farms will be exempt from culling their flocks if they comply with certain bio-security protocols or market live poultry, web-footed fowl raised indoors or gallinaceous birds.

These anti-epidemic measures will be financed by the French state and any losses due to the production halt will be liable to indemnity once the avian flu emergency is over.

Until Thursday, France had accounted for 89 outbreaks in farms spread across eight southwestern departments, and five cases detected in wild animals.