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Monday, May 15, 2006

6,000 chickens to be killed in Limerick 'test'

According to the Irish Times newspaper today, 6,000 chickens will be killed in an excercise to test the irish plans for a bird flu outbreak in ireland

The following is the Full Irish Times story

The chickens will be destroyed in Kilmeedy, Co Limerick, using CO2 gas pumped into their poultry houses. They are past the end of their productive life and deemed suitable for the exercise, a Department of Agriculture spokesman said.

"They will be rendered and absolutely will not end up in the food chain," he added. "Generally what happens when the department takes control of a flock is they pay the farmer involved."
The fire service is not taking part in the exercise, however, despite the fact that fire officers were identified by both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Environment as the personnel best qualified to ventilate the poultry houses after slaughter and ensure the CO2 was gone.

The Fire Officers' Association has instructed its members not to participate in any slaughter, saying the protocol as drawn up by the departments does not comply with standard operation procedures for a hazardous material incident. It says it has not been consulted on the protocol and its members' lives would be at risk.

Under plans drawn up by the departments, in the event of an outbreak of the H5N1 avian bird flu virus, firefighters would not be involved in administering CO2. However, they would enter the poultry houses after the slaughter wearing chemical-proof suits and breathing apparatus, to measure remaining levels of the gas and check that all poultry are in fact dead.

The Fire Officers' Association is concerned about exposure to both CO2 and to avian flu, given one of the methods of transmission of the virus is through contact with excrement from sick birds.

According to the association, the fire service's hazardous materials standard operating procedure dictates that an emergency crew of two to three officers must be on standby with an equipped engine outside or adjacent to the poultry house to rescue their colleagues should they get into difficulty.

At an exercise in Co Monaghan last year, in which 6,000 chickens were also gassed, the operation was headed up by the Co Monaghan fire service.
However, Brendan McCoy, joint chair of the Fire Officers' Association, said: "On this occasion we're not taking part at least until we are consulted.

"We are not willing to be involved in anything that puts our members on the ground at risk."
A spokesman for the department confirmed the slaughter would go ahead despite the non-involvement of the fire service.

"We have made alternative arrangements," he said. "There is a private company that has the expertise and equipment necessary."

Asked if this would cost more than using the fire service, he said there was "a cost element".

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