Matthews could get £670,000 compensation over turkey cull


Last updated at 20:24 01 March 2007

Taxpayers may have to pay Bernard Matthews as much as £670,000 in compensation for turkeys culled after bird flu was discovered at one of his company's factory farms.

See also:

Special report: Bird flu

More health news and features

Experts are considering whether squalid conditions at the Suffolk plant may have been the cause of the H5N1 outbreak, which led to the

slaughter of 159,000 birds last month.

The law, however, allows farmers to be paid compensation if birds are destroyed to prevent an outbreak spreading.

In a written answer to the Commons, Animal Welfare Minister Ben Bradshaw said : "The

Animal Health Act 1981 requires compensation to be paid for all healthy birds slaughtered for disease control purposes at the value of the bird immediately before slaughter.

"This applies to all birds suffering from any strain of avian influenza regardless of whether it is high or low pathogenicity.

"We also compensate for eggs or other property that is seized and destroyed."

The website of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows compensation could be between £3.31 and £4.41 for each of the birds


Payouts appear to apply only to healthy birds which have to be killed.

As 7,000 of those culled were considered to have the virus, the total sum would range from £500,000 to £670,000.

It is understood there is a possibility of other payments to cover the firm's clean-up costs and financial support for workers who were laid off.

A spokesman for Defra said the money would come from the Government although the EU might be

asked to foot half the bill.

Government experts believe the virus was brought to Britain on shipments of turkey meat from a

subsidiary of Bernard Matthews in Hungary at the beginning of February.

It is suspected that infected meat left in open waste bins at the Holton plant was picked over by scavenging gulls and rats then transferred to

nearby turkey rearing sheds.

The turkey sheds used by the company had holes in the roofs which were used by the gulls for roosting.

As a result, it is possible that infection was

washed into the shed by the rain. There

was also access for rats and mice.

Defra said there will be no decision on a prosecution of the company for about two weeks.

Even if it is found to be culpable in some way, this would not prevent compensation.

LibDem food and farming spokesman Chris Huhne said: "Given what we know about the lapses of

bio-security at Bernard Matthews' plant, talk of compensation at this stage seems woefully misplaced."

A company spokesman said: "Bernard Matthews can confirm it will receive compensation from Defra

for culling healthy turkeys following last month's outbreak."