An East Yorkshire poultry farmer has been ordered to pay out £28,000 after pleading guilty to four offences relating to an outbreak of bird flu.
Daniel Mathison, a partner at Mathison (Farmers) Leven, commercially rears and slaughters birds at Southfield Farm in Leven, near Beverley.
He appeared at Beverley Magistrates Court in relation to offences surrounding a bird flu outbreak on his premises and to operating a slaughterhouse without Food Standards Agency (FSA) approval.
The 49-year-old was fined £4,000 per offence, and ordered to pay an additional £6,000 towards costs and a £2,000 victim surcharge, totalling £28,000 to be paid within 12 months.
The court heard how, despite UK-wide compulsory housing and biosecurity measures being in place, officers from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) found the duck rearing shed was fully open.
They also found that no records of bird deaths had been kept when they visited the farm on 12 April 2023, to investigate a possible bird flu outbreak. The disease was confirmed in the duck flock the next day.
Follow-up investigations found slaughtering and meat production activities had expanded such that they were greatly in excess of the permitted limit, above which approval and on-site supervision by the FSA is required.
It was also identified there had been a breach of restrictions preventing the movement of anything onto or from the premises whilst waiting for avian influenza test results, by continuing to supply meat to a local restaurant on 13 April 2023.
A further breach of the ongoing restrictions imposed to minimise the risk of disease spreading from the farm occurred on 31 May 2023, when old insulation was removed from the premises.
During sentencing, the judge said these actions could have had wide reaching and serious consequences for other farmers and the local community.
They considered this to be in the high culpability bracket, as Mr Mathison carried on despite warnings and should have known what was required.
Angela Dearing, director of public protection at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: "It is highly likely this outbreak would not have happened if compulsory measures to ensure separation from wild birds had been complied with.
"It is fortunate the outbreak did not spread further when the disease control restrictions were breached.
"In addition to the catastrophic consequences for this business, the measures required to control the outbreak and prevent it spreading further significantly impacted on other local livestock keepers and the community.
"The outbreak also resulted in substantial financial and resource costs for Defra, APHA, the council and other partner agencies involved."