Belgium’s poultry farmers are calling for the federal government to introduce a curfew to keep all birds inside to protect them from a type of bird flu currently spreading in Eastern Europe.
The disease has led to widespread problems, including the death of tens of thousands of chickens and turkeys in Poland. In Hungary, 50,000 turkeys were slaughtered on suspicion of being infected by the virus. Cases have also been reported of infections in the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovakia and Romania.
The Belgian poultry sector is now worried that plunging temperatures in Eastern Europe may cause wild birds to migrate west, bringing the virus with them. This week the first cases were reported in Germany.
“We are concerned because temperatures continue to drop in Eastern Europe,” said Danny Coulier, president of the industry association in Flanders. His members are calling on the government to introduce a mandatory lock-in for all poultry, to prevent the disease taking hold here.
If wild birds do bring the virus to Belgium, the damage would then be limited, as they could only infect each other. If they were to pass the virus on to reared birds, however, the effects could be disastrous, given how many birds there are living in close proximity to each other.
“We realise that there will be an unavoidable economic impact, but we are seeing that the virus has now spread far and wide, and that it won’t stop thanks to the forecast weather conditions.”
Dutch poultry farmers have already asked their own government for a lock-in.
“Once the virus gets inside a professional poultry farm, the chance that it will spread further through the sector increases,” Coulier said.