Recent letters and editorial pieces have highlighted concern about the number of new poultry sites in Herefordshire and along the Welsh side of the border.

River pollution and environmental degradation are cited as the main objections.

In fact, there are two other issues of potentially even greater importance that are largely ignored.

Firstly, it is contrary to basic animal health bio-security that the three site types (free range eggs/chicken, hatching egg production and broiler growing) are being sited close to each other when (especially) hatching egg production needs to be kept apart.

Free range allows for contact with wild birds: carriers of many infectious and dangerous diseases.

Recent cases of avian influenza in this county have been traced to wild bird contact.

Lack of an effective vaccine for fowl pest led to a catastrophic wipe-out of much of the UK poultry industry in the early 1970s. Only well isolated farms survived.

Secondly, so-called zoonotic diseases, such as the recent bird flu outbreak in southern Asia, not only spread from bird to bird and farm to farm but also to humans, albeit more slowly.

“Bad strains” of bird flu are potentially more dangerous to humans than Covid-19; the mortality rate in humans from Covid-19 pales into insignificance alongside that from “hot” bird flu.

We can’t vaccinate poultry and ourselves for everything and new vaccines take time to develop.

Whilst there is little that planners can do to deny planning permission to new sites, we all – Westminster government, local government and the poultry industry itself – need to wake up to the fact that we may be sleepwalking ourselves into something far worse that we could imagine.

Uneven distribution of poultry farms leading to an over intensity in this one area is in neither the poultry industry’s or our own best interest.

Then there’s river pollution... let’s not forget that!

Andrew Gilliat BEM