Victory for poultry producers and NFU in legal case over AI compensation

NFU legal team and members outside The Royal Court of Justice after winning a landmark legal challenge

A group of NFU members have won a landmark legal challenge against the APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) in an important case about compensation for poultry farmers affected by an AI (Avian Influenza) outbreak on farm.

The poultry farmers, supported by the the NFU and its Legal Assistance Scheme, successfully argued that the APHA misinterpreted the legislation which underpins its compensation scheme by failing to properly compensate affected farmers for birds which are healthy at the point at which the APHA decides they should be culled.

The judge found that the government’s policy both pre-October 2022 (which calculated compensation for healthy birds at the end of culling) and post-October 2022 (which provided compensation to be calculated at the ‘outset of planning culling’) to be considered unlawful.

The ruling by the High Court confirms the NFU’s long-held view that the farmers affected by AI have the right to compensation from the point that the APHA decides that birds should be culled, and not at the later point of culling.

"This is a tremendous result for the members who brought the legal challenge, as well as the NFU and its wider membership."

NFU President Minette Batters

Members who are concerned that they might be impacted can contact NFU CallFirst for advice on 0370 845 8458

Government policy considered unlawful

Due to delays by the APHA, many birds that were otherwise healthy became affected by AI in the interim period.

As a result of the judgment, other poultry keepers who have had their compensation payments unfairly reduced as a result of the APHA's policy may be entitled to have their compensation reconsidered. 

The judgment has been described as “hugely significant” by NFU Poultry Board chair James Mottershead, who also called on the government to act quickly to address the financial loss that many poultry farmers have faced due to its approach in calculating AI compensation.

He added: “On behalf of the poultry sector, I would like to express my gratitude to the NFU members who have fought this challenge from the outset right up until today’s fantastic judgment”.

Members can log in to view more information on the case: NFU briefing on the member led judicial review claim relating to AI compensation

‘A tremendous result’

The members who took on the legal challenge were represented by NFU legal panel firm, Jacksons Law Firm, with Counsel Malcolm Birdling and Jagoda Klimowicz of Brick Court Chambers. As an interested party in the case, the NFU were also represented in the case by its in-house legal department.

NFU legal board chair Nick Hamer said: “The NFU’s Legal Assistance Scheme has provided significant financial support to the members bringing the claim. This highlights once again the huge value of the NFU and the NFU’s LAS in supporting our members.”

The outcome has also been commended by NFU President Minette Batters, who said this is “a tremendous result” for the members who brought the legal challenge, as well as the NFU and its wider membership.

She added: “AI is a truly devasting disease; so many farmers have suffered and are still enduring the aftereffects of the catastrophic outbreaks witnessed since 2021.

“The High Court has made clear that APHA’s AI 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.”

The full judgment can be found online at: LJ Fairburn & Son Ltd & Ors, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs

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