November 17, 2021 at 9:42 am,
Updated November 18, 2021 at 2:10 pm.
Reading time: 6 minutes
Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt (Vaucluse), report
The face of Denis Surgey, an organic poultry farmer in South Vaucluse, is closed this morning of November 6th. On their small farm, lost in the middle of the Provencal countryside, chickens and guinea fowl still cluck freely on large expanses of grass. Maybe not for long. Since the day before, and the passage from France in “ high risk » contamination with avian influenza, no poultry farming is allowed abroad. Measure taken by the Ministry of Agriculture to prevent the spread of the virus. During winter migrations of wild birds, the virus can be transmitted to poultry. “ So here I am outlaw », bitterly observes the creator. For him, although he has not suffered a single case of avian flu in five years, no derogation is possible. “ This is the first time that outdoor farms have been subject to such restrictions. »he said.
“ So far I have followed all regulations, all biosecurity needs  », says the creator. At the request of the authorities, over the last five years, it has installed sanitary locks, installed a rainwater collection system and is regularly monitored by an accredited veterinarian and the services of the departmental management for the protection of populations. (DDPP). But last winter, when state services were overwhelmed by the epidemic, he was still forced to lock up his birds for a few weeks while he waited for his exemption to be obtained. He has a painful memory: “ It was a disaster. The animals were stressed, they attacked each other. There was even cannibalism. » He lost about 400 birds. “ These conditions of “shelter” do not meet the requirements of organic farming or the welfare requirements of my animals »he said.
- Denis Surgey’s birds cluck freely outdoors this winter.
Thus, when the three ministerial decrees were published between September and November it is a cold shower for the creator. “ Organic and external specifications impose 4 mtwo minimum per bird and the ministry wants to force me to lock them all day, with outside access reduced to 0.5mtwo per head », explains Denis Surgey. You are also asked to avoid the use of machines on the routes, to feed and water your animals only indoors, limiting your interventions in buildings. “ Simply put, I’m asked to put in industrial equipment that will do my job for me. »protests the creator. “ It’s a political and economic choice »believes André Lopez, spokesman for the collective Sauve qui poule 84, who observes a dangerous drift towards the industrialization of peasant practices. “ The ministry continues to listen to the industrialists who manufacture millions and export, rather than the short-circuit farmers who enable the territories’ food resilience. »
“ Our only chance is to mobilize consumers »
However, the involvement of factory farms in the spread of bird flu no longer needs to be proven. In fact, according to a report by the National Food Safety Agency (Anses) published in May 2021, the spread of the virus during the winter of 2020 was largely facilitated by “ movements » between farms and “ density » of these. Access to outdoor courses would have played only a minor role in the introduction of the virus (two cases in the southwest). Facts that the Peasant Confederation and the Movement for the Defense of Family Farmers (Modef) repeatedly reported to the Ministry of Agriculture, without much success. “ More proof that it’s the manufacturers who pull the strings »outraged Denis Surgey.
- If he applied the measures imposed by the government, Denis’ birds would be piled up all winter in his shelter, in conditions similar to those of intensive livestock. © Quentin Zinzius/Reportre
So, for the creator of Vaucluse, the decision is made: this winter, there will be no “ shelter ». “ It’s enough. I have nothing against regulations, but we still have to let ourselves do our jobs. ! » And he won’t be the only one to challenge the ministry. “ In the department, we have four very involved producers », says André Lopes. A riot that could cost them dearly: prohibition of production, marketing, prior notice, obligation to work, fine… “ I know what awaits me in case of controlcontinues Dennis, but I have nothing to lose. »
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Farmers are not the only ones suffering from the situation. “ When buying products labeled organic or outdoors, the consumer expects quality. With these new health standards, there will be no “outdoors” than the name »note André Lopez, bitter. “ We will organize demonstrations, we will initiate legal proceedings. It is out of the question to let these farmers disappear without doing anything. » Because, in the long run, the measure can kill 30 % of holdings, according to the Confédération paysanne. “ It is a mass layoff plan that will empty our territories and destroy local food circuits. »she says on her website. “ Our only chance is to mobilize consumers. Without them, it will be the end of outdoor creation. », warns Denis Surgey. A demonstration, co-organized by the Confédération paysanne, Agribio Var and the Amap de Provence network will take place in front of the sub-prefecture of Draguignan (Var) on Wednesday, November 17, as part of a week-long protest movement on a national scale. .