Duck cull in France's foie gras region to contain bird flu
French authorities started slaughtering ducks in the main foie gras-producing region on Thursday to try to contain a dangerous form of bird flu.
Operations to destroy the birds got under way in three departments of southwestern France, where an outbreak of the H5N8 virus has not stabilised.
The virus, which is particularly aggressive in poultry farms, does not transmit via food and is harmless to humans.
The French Agriculture Ministry said in a statement that all free-range ducks in a zone covering parts of the Gers, Landes and Hautes Pyrenees departments will be culled. Poultry and ducks grown in confined spaces will not be destroyed, while farms that do not sell live animals and where birds are grown from ducklings to the final products will not be affected by the measure.
The cull is expected to last until January 20 and could potentially affect as many as one million ducks.
Since December last year, 89 outbreaks of bird flu have been reported in France, most of them in southwestern France.
According to the French foie gras producers federation, the previous bird flu outbreak in December 2015 resulted in a drop of 25 per cent in the production of foie gras after about 300,000 ducks were destroyed.
COMPENSATION TO COME
The agriculture ministry said the current quick spread of the virus justified the cull, which will be accompanied by compensation measures for farmers.
Farmers' union Confederation Paysanne welcomed the decision not to kill birds raised on a single site, and urged authorities to think about a reshuffle of the whole industry in order to limit the transportation of animals.
The H5N8 strain of bird flu has also hit neighbouring Germany. On Thursday, the zoo in the northeast German city of Schwerin was closed after the virus was found in a snow goose. The zoo also said it would have to kill geese and ducks that live in the grounds, as a precaution. Other zoo birds such as pelicans and storks were brought indoors.