Poultry farmers win High Court battle against APHA on bird flu compensation  

Poultry farmers have won a landmark legal challenge against the government in a battle over the proper compensation payable to poultry farmers affected by avian flu.

A group of producers, supported by NFU, argued that the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) had wrongly interpreted the law underpinning its compensation scheme and failed to properly compensate affected farmers for birds that were healthy at the point at which it decided they should be culled.   

According to the NFU, the government has been applying an unlawful policy to the calculation of compensation for farmers affected by avian influenza (AI). The right to compensation for healthy birds affected by bird flu accrues at the point at which APHA decides that the birds should be culled, not at the later point of culling.  

Due to delays by APHA between condemnation and culling, many healthy birds became affected by avian influenza in the interim period, leading to substantial losses for producers under APHA’s unlawful compensation regime.  

Hugely significant judgment 

NFU president Minette Batters, photo by NFU.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “The High Court judgment is a tremendous result for the members who brought the legal challenge, as well as the NFU and its wider membership. AI is a truly devasting disease; so many farmers have suffered and are still enduring the aftereffects of the catastrophic outbreaks witnessed since 2021.   

“The High Court has made clear that APHA’s AI compensation policy is unlawful, and we now look to government to rectify this wrong and to pay farmers the compensation to which they are lawfully entitled.”  

NFU poultry board chair James Mottershead added that the “hugely significant judgment” for poultry farmers would provide important clarity on the interpretation of the avian influenza compensation regime.  

Power of NFU 

NFU poultry board chair James Mottershead, photo by NFU.

Mr Mottershead said: “On behalf of the poultry sector, I would like to express my gratitude to the NFU members who have fought this challenge from the outset right up until today’s fantastic judgment, and it’s great to see the power of what the NFU can do for its members. The government’s flawed approach to calculating AI compensation over recent years must be swiftly corrected as a result of this ruling.”

NFU legal board chair Nick Hamer added: “This is an incredible result for the members involved in this case, along with the NFU and the wider poultry sector. The NFU’s Legal Assistance Scheme has provided significant financial support to the members bringing the claim.

NFU legal board chair Nick Hamer, photo by NFU.

“I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and expertise of the NFU’s poultry team and in-house legal department, along with the fantastic support provided by NFU Panel Firm Jacksons Law Firm and legal Counsel Malcolm Birdling and Jagoda Klimowicz. This highlights once again the huge value of the NFU and the NFU’s LAS in supporting our members.”

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