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Man told to pay £28,000 for bird flu offences

A partner in Mathison (Farmers) Leven, who commercially rear and slaughter poultry at Southfield Farm, Leven, East Yorkshire, supplying the meat under the brand Yorkshire Ducks and Geese, appeared at Beverley Magistrates Court on Wednesday, 31st January, in relation to animal health and food safety offences.

Daniel Mathison, 49, pleaded guilty to four offences relating to the Avian Influenza (bird flu) outbreak on their premises and to operating a slaughterhouse without Food Standards Agency (FSA) approval.

Mathison was fined £4,000 per offence, and ordered to pay an additional £6,000 towards costs and a £2,000 victim surcharge, totalling £28,000 to be paid within 12 months.

The court heard how, despite nationwide preventative compulsory housing, biosecurity and record keeping measures being in place, officers from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) found the end of the duck rearing shed was fully open, and no records of bird deaths had been kept when they visited the farm on 12 April, 2023, to investigate a possible Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) outbreak.

Avian influenza was confirmed in the duck flock on 13th April, 2023.

Follow-up investigations by officers from Public Protection at East Riding of Yorkshire Council found slaughtering and meat production activities had expanded such that they were greatly in excess of the permitted limit, above which approval and on-site supervision by the Food Standards Agency is required.

It was also identified there had been a breach of restrictions preventing the movement of anything onto or from the premises whilst waiting for Avian Influenza test results, by continuing to supply meat to a local restaurant on 13th April, 2023.

A further breach of the ongoing restrictions imposed to minimise the risk of disease spreading from the farm occurred on 31st May, 2023, when old insulation was removed from the premises.

During sentencing, the magistrates said these actions could have had wide reaching and serious consequences for other farmers, health and the local community.

They considered this to be in the high culpability bracket, as Mathison carried on despite warnings and should have known what was required.

Angela Dearing, director of housing, transportation and public protection at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “It is highly likely this Avian Influenza outbreak would not have happened if compulsory housing measures to ensure separation from wild birds had been complied with. It is fortunate the outbreak did not spread further when the disease control restrictions were breached.

“In addition to the catastrophic consequences for this business, the measures required to control the outbreak and prevent it spreading further significantly impacted on other local livestock keepers and the community. The outbreak also resulted in substantial financial and resource costs for DEFRA, APHA, the council and other partner agencies involved.

She added: “It is therefore vitally important that all livestock keepers play their part and adhere to animal disease control regulations, which are in place to protect against potentially devastating effects on their own livestock and businesses, animal and public health, and the economy.”

Aled Edwards, Head of Field Delivery England, Animal and Plant Health Agency. added: “This case demonstrates how our robust enforcement and our effective collaboration with local authorities can bring those guilty of breaches of animal health and welfare legislation to justice.

“I hope the sentence will act as a reminder to others of the importance of these legal requirements in minimising the risk of further spread of disease, and the consequences of not adhering to the rules.

“APHA takes potential breaches of animal health and welfare legislation very seriously and will continue to investigate all allegations.”

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