A simple text message warned Maryline Beyris, three days before: ” Your ducks will be removed for preventive slaughter. Have a good day “, he said. His 600 palmipeds were healthy, with no mortality or neurological symptoms typical of the H5N8 virus. But his farm in Doazit, in the Landes, is less than 3 km from an outbreak of avian influenza. The ducks left for the slaughterhouse on January 2, the 300 ducklings followed yesterday. “It’s very violent and difficult to understand. Analyzes are only carried out after slaughter. They only warn you if the animals are carriers of the virus. And I was not contacted… ” explains the vice-president of the Landes movement for the defense of family farmers (Modef).
Since December 6 and the first contamination of a duck farm in the Landes, avian flu has spread throughout the South-West: Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées and Gers. At the last count, on January 1, the Ministry of Agriculture identified 61 outbreaks against 18 three days earlier. “The epidemic is out of control, we are running behind the virus, and the services are completely overwhelmed”, continues Sylvie Colas, a poultry farmer in the north of Gers and spokesperson for the Confédération paysanne.
To stop the spread of this strain “Highly pathogenic”, the health authorities are betting on preventive slaughter. As soon as an outbreak is identified, all poultry within a radius of 1 km are culled, as well as all ducks and unconfined species (cloistered) within a radius of 1 to 3 km. As a result, more than 200,000 ducks have already been killed, 100,000 of which were preventive. 400,000 more must be by the end of the week. “We will end up very quickly at over a million with this strategy”, continues Maryline Beyris, producer of ducks, duck breasts, confit, rillettes and foie gras.
“There are so many homes that no one can follow”
When an outbreak is contaminated, the animals are euthanized on site, and not transported to avoid further spreading the H5N8. “There are so many homes that no one can follow. The State has not provided the means ”, Sylvie Colas points. Maryline Beyris’s neighbor, whose ducks tested positive for H5N8 on December 31, was still waiting, on January 6, for the palmipeds to be euthanized. “And during that time, he counts the corpses”, specifies the breeder.
In the memory of all the producers, the episodes of 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. In those years, 4.5 million poultry had gone through the slaughterhouse preventively. “Are we going once again to follow this path which has shown its failure? “ asks Maryline Beyris. She has already lost 60,000 euros, while compensation is not yet provided. The National Agency for Health Security (ANSES) was to deliver its opinion on the adopted strategy no later than January 7.
For Modef as for the Confédération paysanne, we have especially not learned the lessons of the past. “The small open-air farms are singled out, and the veterinary services want to force us to enclose our farms”, explains Maryline Beyris. But the problem is above all to look for the side“The density and concentration of animals which increase the risks in the event of disease”, for Sylvie Colas, at the Confédération paysanne. The small producers, in any case, are playing for their survival.