There are rules governing the keeping of hens in the UK in order to minimise the possibility of an outbreak of bird flu occurring in the UK because there have been outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry and wild birds in several countries in Europe. Although the risk of it spreading to the U.K. is low precautions have to be taken and Defra have issued some rules.
Avian influenza a.k.a. bird flu appears to be zoonotic because it can affect humans and other mammals. There appears to be a rise of new bird flu cases in the UK and as a consequence since 14 December 2020 there have been rules designed to curb the spread of this contagious disease. The NHS website says that, “H5N8 bird flu has been found in some wild birds and poultry in the UK. H5N6 has also been found in some wild birds in the UK but it is a different strain to that seen in China.”
There are lots of different strains of bird flu virus, the following variants have caused the most concern recently: H5N1, H7N9, H5N6 and H5N8. The last variant has not infected any humans worldwide at present. No humans have been infected with bird flu in the UK but H5N6 has infected humans in China. Tens of thousands of poultry are to be slaughtered in at least six Indian states to try to contain two of the above strains, HN51 and H5N8. There are reports that thousands of migrating birds, ducks, crows and chickens have died. The carcasses were found at a Himalayan lake where large flocks of migratory birds spend the winter.
Samantha Cameron keeps hens. She is the former wife of Prime Minister David Cameron. She’s provoked criticism having posted a photograph online on her Instagram page of four hens roaming around outside apparently near their Cotswolds’ home (back garden it seems).
Birds must be housed indoors to protect them from these highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza. Many turkeys, hens and ducks have been killed in the UK to prevent the spread of the disease.
Chris Packham, the conservationist and BBC presenter remarked amusingly (in reference to Dominic Cummings) that, “You can’t let chickens out to test their eyesight.”
Samantha Cameron uploaded the photograph on New Year’s Eve. She captioned it: “Frosty sunrise”. It’s received 1,300 likes and comments have pointed out that she appears to be in breach of the rules. For example, “Lovely picture but I think your chicken should not be out given Defra’s housing order?”
Packham told The Times that everyone should take responsibility and that “the law is the law”. Apparently Samantha Cameron bought the chickens to entertain her children during these long lockdowns.
Comment: It is ironic that both chickens and humans are under lockdown rules at this very moment. The world is a changed place. We are all becoming hermits which is tough for humans as they are a very social animal. This lockdown is hurting people. And hens for that matter!
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