France will slaughter several million poultry birds in the second mass cull of flocks as the country tries to contain outbreaks of avian influenza, the country’s agriculture ministry said recently.
After a wave of cases in the southwest led to the culling of around 4 million animals, the ministry said the disease had spread rapidly since February in the Pays de la Loire region, another major poultry zone further up France’s west coast.
The authorities had slaughtered 1.2 million birds in the region to date and were expected to cull another 3 million, as they adopted the same strategy as the southwest by emptying poultry farms in areas near outbreaks.
Avian influenza is often carried by wild birds in autumn and winter.
The highly contagious H5N1 strain has spread quickly in Europe in recent months, prompting massive culls in several countries.
Avian influenza cannot be passed on to humans through the eating of poultry products, though there have been occasional cases of humans catching strains of the disease.
As the Pays de la Loire region is a major supplier of chicks, the authorities will grant an exemption to allow reproduction farms in high-risk zones to continue supplying the rest of the country, notably the southwest that is about to resume breeding after its avian influenza lockdown.
Avian influenza outbreaks have added to pressure on poultry producers who are facing a jump in feed costs due to record grain prices, partly linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
France and the European Union have promised special aid for livestock sectors.