The UK is playing a lead role in international initiatives to coordinate action on avian influenza. We provide advice and support through the Veterinary Laboratories Agency which, as the World Reference Laboratory, is a constant source of advice, expertise and training for specialists around the world. We have provided technical veterinary expertise to Romania and will consider requests for additional support, working with the European Commission, to help their efforts to tackle the disease.
We consider that the most effective use of resources is to channel them through multilateral organisations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, who already have in place infrastructures and programmes which can be employed to address avian influenza.
Following a veterinary risk assessment, pigeon racing is currently allowed within the British Isles (that is, including the Republic of Ireland) subject to certain conditions. These include a requirement for race organisers to advise their local Animal Health Office that the event is taking place and to adhere to strict biosecurity practice.
Following a further recent risk assessment, pigeon races from Belgium and Northern France were permitted since 15 June 2006. These gatherings are subject to the same notification and biosecurity conditions for races within the British Isles as well as additional requirements to isolate pigeons following a race and can only take place until 31 July 2006 when we will review the position again. If the disease situation changes we will immediately review the position and may re-impose a ban on all pigeon races.
The Defra website contains full details of the restrictions and guidance on how to comply with them: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/notifiable/disease/ai/qanda/gatherings.htm.