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Channel racing looks remote but inching towards inland start PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Walsh   
Friday, 26 March 2021

pigeon.jpgThe struggle to fit-in some channel races, once the 2021 programme is underway, is proving harder than anyone might have imagined. 

Brexit was clearly the right decision (witness the hapless vaccination roll-out in Europe) but with the pandemic stopping and now slowing any return to normality, it is proving a handicap. 

Ian Evans, the RPRA chief executive, has been trying for some time now to get some answers to leading questions on a return to channel racing. 

Here’s his latest statement on the matter - “As you will be aware from my previous publication DEFRA had confirmed that Racing pigeons transported into the EU from the UK for Racing purposes (i.e. to be liberated in the EU to fly back to the UK) were exempt from the Animal Health requirements.  

“Following this confirmation we have been working with French Border control to establish what paperwork was required. The outcome of this has been that there is a very different opinion to the 'import' of racing pigeons into the EU from the UK for racing purposes in terms of the health documentation.

“The current position of the French border control would make the prospect of racing from France or any EU country virtually impossible.  

“There has been successful lobbying of the EU commission by the FCI and European racing organisations in terms of exemptions for racing in relation to the new animal health laws.

“While it seems the commission has now excluded racing pigeons from such requirements it has recently become apparent that this is only the case for transport within the EU, by EU members states. So what is being done?  

“I am in regular contact with French Border control, FCI, FCF (French pigeon Racing Federation) to try and reach a position whereby we can make channel racing achievable. I have also brought this issue to the attention of DEFRA who are looking into the issues.  

“While I am not an expert in the animal health requirements I am of the opinion that article 62 of the animal health requirements for Third countries (countries outside of the EU), that allows such countries to apply for certain derogations (exemptions), is the avenue to take.

“However, the process for achieving these derogations is yet to be confirmed. The FCI and FCF are currently assisting in trying to establish the process with the Commission and the French Authorities. Please be assured that everything that can be done is being done” 

As for the start of inland racing there’s no indication of a definite date, although April 17 had been tentatively suggested a couple of weeks ago. 

But unless certain things fall into place fairly quickly that won’t happen. 

Problem number one is avian flu and the protection zone which states no bird gatherings, so that will have to be lifted. 

The second problem is we need the Government’s roadmap to be on course from April 12 when people from two households can meet outside. 

Ian Evans also attended a meeting of the Avian Flu stakeholders group this week and had this to say afterwards. 

“As previously publicised the housing measures will be removed from mid night 31st March 2021. But an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will remain in place across the UK until the risk is assessed as low. The current risk level has been assessed as being between mid and high level.  

“The General license for bird gatherings will be reinstated when the risk level is deemed to be low and the next review will be carried out at the end of March. 

“A number of stakeholders asked why DEFRA had not published a 'Road Map' (plan) for when restriction could be lifted. The response outlined that it was impossible to predict when the risk would be assessed as low.  

“I raised the question would Defra be considering the lifting of the ban on gatherings for specific species of birds ie. Before the 'blanket ban was lifted.'

“It was outlined that pigeons were deemed a low risk of transmitting/spreading avian influenza. Defra's reply was that it was possible that the gatherings could be permitted for certain species deemed low risk in advance of other species of birds.  

“With this in mind I have written to the Defra representatives to request a meeting in advance of the next risk assessment at the end of March.” 

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