Farmer fined after bird flu breaches

A FARMER who illegally dumped dead carcasses just metres from thousands of turkeys in the middle of an avian flu outbreak has been fined £4,000.

Dave Gooderham

A FARMER who illegally dumped dead carcasses just metres from thousands of turkeys in the middle of an avian flu outbreak has been fined £4,000.

Trading standards chiefs condemned the actions of Geoffery Buchanan, a director of Gressingham Foods, claiming there was a serious chance they could have heightened the epidemic.

Buchanan oversaw the dumping of dead carcasses from five farms into one single skip rather than disposing of them in a correct manner, the court heard today.

This was despite the skip being located just 25 metres from 4,000 turkeys and at the same time as an avian flu outbreak hit north Suffolk last year.

After the case, Mike Collins, principal trading standards officer for Suffolk County Council, said: “The legislation is there for a reason and that is to stop the spread of disease.

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“Breaking this legislation at the height of an epidemic meant spreading the disease was more likely. We think this sentence does send out the message that farmers need to comply with legislation for safety and prevention reasons.”

Magistrates at Bury St Edmunds heard that five farms operated by Woodbridge-based Gressingham Foods had suffered bird loss on an almost daily basis in November.

But rather than dispose of the carcasses in the correct manner, the dead birds were all shipped to one single place, Crackthorpe Farm in Redgrave, near Diss, and placed in a container before they were then taken away properly.

Buchanan, 38, whose legal team denied claims that he had been aware of the potential risk and had done it for any financial gain, said he had inherited practices from existing employees which he thought were legal.

He pleaded guilty to eight charges relating to how his company kept and disposed of dead birds without government approval. A further 18 offences were dropped at the start of the case.

Magistrates, who said the incident was one of negligence rather than anything more deliberate, fined him £4,000 and ordered him to pay costs of £3,510 and a victim surcharge of £15.

Speaking after the hearing, Buchanan, of Loomswood Farm, Debach, near Woodbridge, said he wanted to make it “abundantly clear” that the offences were not linked to the avian flu outbreak.

He added: “We very much regret the offences and accept the sentence imposed by the court today. We always work with trading standards and Defra and other regulatory bodies and we will continue to do so. We are confident our systems have been substantially improved and we will not be repeating these errors.”