From today, the Welsh Government is allowing poultry in Wales outside as long as keepers take risk-reducing measures, allowing Welsh producers to maintain the free-range status of their flocks.  However in England, the government is introducing High Risk Areas (HRAs) for bird flu. Inside these areas the previous rules remain in force and birds must stay inside.  Outside an HRA owners can chose to let their birds out if they take certain precautions.


As bird flu is usually spread by migrating waterfowl, an HRA is based around a body of water that could attract birds.  This is causing particular confusion near Shrewsbury as you can see from the DEFRA map.  


The ‘chunk’ taken out of the HRA is due to the border between England and Wales following the River Severn.  Ironically it's the River’s ability to attract wild waterfowl potentially infected with avian flu, that's the reason for the HRA on the English side in the first place. But the rules are very different in Wales causing confusion with the science on the English side saying it's not safe to let domestic poultry outside in this HRA and with the Welsh science contradicting. This situation continues further along the border especially in Gloucestershire and around Chepstow.

As free-range producers know, the financial impact for them is considerable.  With loss of free-range status of their flocks eggs will now be classed as barn eggs. 

The Welsh Government claim it's about putting the onus on farmers to do the right thing whilst the English approach is more prescriptive.  Both governments will re-examine things in April.  Meanwhile a postcode lottery continues and producers must continue to monitor updates for information vital to their businesses.


Information coutesy of DEFRA & the BBC.