Poultry producers have won a landmark legal judgement against the government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) over compensation levels payable to farmers affected by avian influenza.
The producers, supported by the National Farmers’ Union, had argued that APHA had wrongly interpreted the law underpinning its compensation scheme and failed to properly compensate affected farmers for birds which were healthy at the point at which it decided they should be culled.
The High Court ruling confirms the NFU’s long-held view that the government had been applying an unlawful policy to the calculation of compensation for farmers affected by avian influenza and that the right to compensation for healthy birds affected by the virus accrues at the point at which APHA decides that the birds should be culled, and not at the point of culling.
“The High Court has made it clear that APHA’s avian influenza compensation policy is unlawful…”
Due to delays by APHA between condemnation and culling, many healthy birds became affected by avian influenza in the interim period, leading to substantial loses for producers under APHA’s compensation regime.
Minette Batters, NFU President, said it was now time for the government to amend its position: “Today’s High Court judgment is a tremendous result for the members who brought the legal challenge, as well as the NFU and its wider membership. Avian influenza is a truly devastating disease; so many farmers have suffered and are still enduring the aftereffects of the catastrophic outbreaks witnessed since 2021. The High Court has made it clear that APHA’s avian influenza 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.”
James Mottershead, Shropshire poultry producer and NFU poultry board chair, added that the hugely significant judgment for farmers provided clarity on the interpretation of the avian influenza compensation regime: “The government’s flawed approach to calculating avian influenza compensation over recent years must be swiftly corrected as a result of this ruling.”
The claimants were represented by Jacksons Law Fur and Counsel Malcolm Birdling and Jagoda Klimowicz of Brick Court Chambers.