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24 September 2014

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You are in: Suffolk > History > Bird flu > Bird Flu: the local view

Holton warning sign

Bird Flu: the local view

People living around Holton have found themselves suddenly living within either a 3km protection zone or a 10km surveillance zone. Media coverage has been high profile, but some say there hasn't been much direct contact with the authorities.

The 3km protection zone means all poultry must be housed and tested. Within the 10km zone all poultry must be housed and isolated from wild birds, there should be no transportation of poultry except for slaughter, no bird fairs or markets and there are footpath restrictions on free-range farms.

Just a couple of miles up the A144 from Bernard Matthews in Holton is Ilketshall St Lawrence where Carl Frost's farm has 300 chickens:  "I heard late on Friday on BBC Look East that there was a possible outbreak and we heard more on Saturday morning.  We then rang DEFRA and we were told to house up any free-range chickens we had.   We got them all in by Saturday evening.

Restriction zones map

"If we go into the buildings we dip our feet in disinfectant.  We don't move our birds on and off the site anyway, so it doesn't really affect us any further.  Our regular customers are still buying our eggs because they're quite sensible.  If you cook them properly there's no problem anyway.  As long as the press don't scaremonger, that'll be the main thing."


Suffolk Trading Standards officer Jill Korwin has been offering advice to people with a few chickens (or pigeons) in the back yard:  "The main question to our helpline has been what do I do?  The important thing is to isolate domestic birds from wild birds in a shed ideally.  Some people have been covering the pens.  We can enforce this, but most people are concerned for their birds and are following the advice.  Everybody understands it's sensible advice."


The region's National Farmers Union office is happy with the emergency response.  However, the Eastern regional director Pam Forbes is disappointed that some countries, such as Japan, responded by banning the import of UK poultry: "It's  always something that happens to us.  The media interest, while helpful, can serve to up people's concerns.  Locally everyone's been responsible and helpful but perhaps on the wider scene you don't get that level of responsibility.

"Our regular customers are still buying our eggs because they're quite sensible. If you cook them properly there's no problem anyway. "

Carl Frost, chicken farmer, Ilketshal St Lawrence

"Nobody wants to see these sorts of images [dead birds being piled into trucks].  We've got to try and explain the reasons for the cull and the good reasons behind it.  The priority now is to get rid of all disease.  After that we need DEFRA to establish the cause of the disease."

The Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer is a former Conservative agriculture minister and he says the emergency has been handled well by the government vets, the Suffolk police and the local planners: "The only way humans have contracted the disease is in countries where infected birds have been kept in people's homes. I've put down a special notice question at the House of Commons so that the minister will have the opportunity to tell us how we can ensure this doesn't spread and when the restriction zones will be lifted."

Bernhard Matthews, Holton

Some people have been surprised that they didn't get information via a leaflet or a knock at their front door.  Wendy Mawer is a Suffolk County and Waveney District Councillor who lives in Holton: "The media circus is here and there's been no other subject on radio and television.  Leaflets are being distributed.  Strangely enough, the helpline at the County Council had just 25 people ringing in over the course of a 24 hour period."

The Suffolk County Council helpline is 08456 032 814 and the link to their website is on the right.


Within the 10km zone, there is increased surveillance of wetland areas.  The RSPB's Minsmere site is on the edge of the circle on the Suffolk coast between Dunwich and Southwold.  The reserve's Steve Rowland says they've been monitoring things ever since the threat of bird flu became known in 2006: "Our wardens go out twice a week specifically to look for dead birds.  If we find any, we report them to DEFRA as happened last year with a dead swan.  They came within a couple of hours and next day confirmed it didn't have bird flu, so it's a very efficient early warning system if the disease was to turn up in the wild bird population.

"Birds die in the wild all the time and usually they'd get eaten by foxes.  If we found half a dozen dead ducks in one place then we would get suspicious and call DEFRA in.

Bernard Matthews, Holton, Suffolk

"From what I've heard Bernard Matthews is a very bio-secure environment.  I'm hoping this is confined to this one unit and it seems it would have to be a small bird like a sparrow which spread the disease."

"We're outside the exclusion zone, so walkers are still welcome at Minsmere.  The RSPB website also gives information about bird flu and how it relates to your own garden."

Metfield pig farmer Peter Mortimer was caught up in the swine fever outbreak in 2000:"I have every sympathy with the poultry sector.  The main question is how the outbreak ended up in that particular building? If it was wild birds, can they live with it [bird flu] in the wild?  It's prudent to keep the public as far away as possible.  The maps on the official websites could be better.  They're not detailed enough so that people can see which zone they're in."

Back in Holton, Graham Fullerton, who's landlord of the Triple Plea pub says some people are concerned, others are more laid back: "The first thing I knew about it was when I woke up on Saturday morning to find a roadblock in front of the pub.  Being so close to the plant I would have expected a visit from one of the health officials to tell me what's going on and whether I should open.  Some customers have rung up, but it's business as usual.  I think some people may shy away from the area, but it might have all blown over by the time we get into the tourist season."  [Note: the pub's name is explained by it's sign which shows a man on his deathbed surrounded by a vicar, a doctor and a lawyer.  The doctor's pleading for his body, the vicar for his soul and the lawyer for his money. The devil is waiting behind the bed to get all of them!]

The Suffolk County Council helpline is 08456 032 814 and the link to their website is on the right.

The Farm Crisis Network can be contacted on 07002 326326.  A link to its website is on the right hand side of this page.

last updated: 20/06/2008 at 16:55
created: 05/02/2007

You are in: Suffolk > History > Bird flu > Bird Flu: the local view

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