‘Unprecedented’ Bird flu Outbreak Is Exacerbating ‘Cost Of Living Crisis’

An ‘unprecedented’ bird flu outbreak has made the cost of living crisis even worse according to experts who warn that the number of poultry culled has almost doubled since last season.

According to figures from the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), over 22 million cases have been reported in wild birds and poultry so far this season in 68 countries.

The information was shared exclusively with the Telegraph who also report that the figure is double the 11m recorded between October 2020 and September 2021, which itself was an all-time high.

The Telegraph reports: In an effort to curb the outbreak, 94.2m farmed poultry have been killed and disposed of, compared to 54.4m last season. Before 2020, the number of birds culled to stem the spread of avian flu worldwide has only topped 15m twice.

Experts say the surge – which comes amid a cost of living crisis and mounting food insecurity, triggered by war in Ukraine and extreme weather – has further disrupted supply chains, contributing to higher prices.

“This is a devastating situation from a market and supply perspective,” said Kathleen Liang, director of the Centre for Environmental Farming Systems in North Carolina.

“Remember that the chicken comes with the egg… the cost of both has definitely gone up due to bird flu, compounded by inflation and import/export challenges,” she added. “Bird flu is one of a combination of factors that is driving food insecurity.”

In the UK, which has also been hit by an “unprecedented” bird flu season, some restrictions to protect poultry and captive birds were lifted in May, but an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone remains in place – meaning bird keepers have to follow strict biosecurity measures. 

Professor Munir Iqbal, head of the Avian Influenza Virus group at the Pirbright Institute in Surrey, told the Telegraph that the risk to agriculture remains high due to ongoing spread in wild populations.

For example, at least 3,000 birds have died in the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumbria, according to the National Trust, in the worst disaster to hit its colonies in nearly 100 years. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government Agency NatureScot has advised 23 islands to halt visitors in a bid to limit the spread of bird flu.

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