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Bird flu fears cancel Balmoral Show poultry competition

By Rachel Martin

The Balmoral Show has scrapped this year's poultry section competitions over bird flu fears.

Rhonda Geary, Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) operations director said on Tuesday that the decision had been made due to the ongoing suspension of bird gatherings because of the latest outbreak of avian influenza.

She said: “Following consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, the RUAS have regrettably decided to cancel the poultry section of the 2017 show.

“There will however still be classes for pigeons, decorated eggs and shelled eggs.”

Poultry section entries were due to close on March 16.

The RUAS said information on refunds for entries already submitted would be made available at a later date.

The show normally includes classes for turkeys, geese, waterfowl, modern game, old English game, hard feathered birds, soft feathered birds and Bantams.

This year's show will run from May 10-13 and will mark the first time that Balmoral will run over four days.

So far there have been six cases of bird flu in the Republic of Ireland and two cases in Northern Ireland reported as part of the latest outbreak.

As part of prevention measures farmers are forced to keep all flocks of hens indoors to stop the virus from spreading - but the EU has refused to grant any extension to the 12-week maximum that it will allow free-range birds to be kept inside.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of eggs will be stripped of their free-range status and will have to be relabelled if the restrictions aren't ended in the next few weeks.

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