The Government has today come under fresh attack from the Animal Protection Agency (APA) for it's proposed review of quarantine procedures amidst claims that infected birds from the Essex quarantine facility may already have been sold to the public. APA, the national organisation campaigning against the trade in wild animals for pets, has likened the quarantine 'review' to 'closing the cage door once the bird has flown!'
The UK, until recently, prided itself on its stringent quarantine controls - still widely acknowledged as one of the best-operated systems in Europe. However, the death of the H5N1 bird in the Essex facility provided a valuable insight into the British quarantine system and revealed it as 'shambolic'.
Professor Nigel Dimmock at Warwick University, will lead the independent review in avian quarantine. But APA believes that even a comprehensive overhaul of the UK quarantine system and replacement with a system operated entirely independently of wildlife dealers, employing military-style bio-security measures would still not protect the public against the introduction of zoonotic diseases from the pet bird trade.
Says Elaine Toland, Director of APA:
"With a bird market ban now being enforced and the importation of wild birds into the EU temporarily suspended, this is good news for animal health and welfare and ultimately in the best interests of public safety. However, the proposed quarantine review shows that the government is clearly considering the re-introduction of wild bird imports at some stage and this would amount to a retrograde step."
Says Clifford Warwick, Medical Scientist:
"The Government's proposed review of quarantine protocols, no matter how conscientious, can offer no panacea to the introduction of bird flu and other infections to the UK or Europe via the exotic pet trade. The only way to prevent importation of infections is to make permanent the current emergency bans on bird imports and pet markets, and then enhance this barrier by restricting the movement of birds between EU member states and clamping down on smuggling."
Issued: 2 November 2005