Birds still being released and shot despite Avian Flu crisis

Avian influenza Prevention Zone declared across Great Britain making it a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures.

Chief veterinary officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain to prevent the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds in a belated attempt to control and limit the spread of the country’s worst ever bird flu outbreak.

The introduction of the AIPZ comes after the United Kingdom has faced its largest ever outbreak of avian flu with 190 cases confirmed across the United Kingdom since late October 2021, with over 30 of these confirmed since the beginning of the month.



The East of England has been particularly badly hit with outbreaks in poultry and captive birds. There have also been outbreaks in the south west and in wild birds at multiple sites across Great Britain.

The avian influenza prevention zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to monitor and manage the risks of bird flu.

“Bird keepers have faced the largest ever outbreak of avian flu this year and with winter brings an even more increased risk to flocks as migratory birds return to the United Kingdom,” the chief veterinary officers of England, Scotland and Wales said in a joint statement.

“Scrupulous biosecurity and hygiene measures is the best form of defence.”

The AIPZ means bird keepers across Great Britain must:

  • Keep free ranging birds within fenced areas, and that ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water must be fenced off (except in specific circumstances e.g. zoo birds).
  • Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy;
  • Minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures;
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas
  • Keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other poultry.
  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources;
  • Feed and water your birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds;



No specific guidance appears to have been given to shoots though, despite the shooting industry releasing up to 50 million pheasants and partridges into the countryside every year.

In early September the RSPB asked the government to ban the release of so-called ‘game birds’ into the countryside to stop the spread of Avian Flu. But on the 22nd of September, ITV News reported that ‘…for the first time this year pheasants in Cornwall, Cheshire and Norfolk have tested positive for the H5N1 virus’.

Avian flu has already decimated populations of wild birds across the UK and Europe, and there is no acceptable reason that shooting should be exempted from these extended measures.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) advised that the risk to public health from the virus is low, but dead wild birds may be infected so the public is advised not to touch them unless wearing suitable protective clothing. When found on publicly owned land and a decision is taken to remove them, it is the local authorities’ responsibility to safely dispose of the carcasses as animal by-products.”