THE NEWCASTLE DISEASE (ND) virus, states the European Commission, is spread mainly via direct contact between healthy birds and the bodily emissions – typically faeces – of infected ones. A lesser threat results from its indirect transmission via people, vehicles, food, and so on. The danger of ND is mainly to commercial poultry: you know, those dense populations of savagely in-bred fowl that have retained scant natural resistance to anything. 

 Defensive measures are very like what happens with bird flu: surround the breakout site with a 3km protection zone (for at least 21 days after cleansing and disinfection) and a 10km surveillance zone (for at least 30 days). Why on earth breakouts in the Low Countries, as reported since the summer, should affect UK bird shows is absolutely beyond me. How many outbreaks of bird flu have ever been detected in pedigree cage bird studs? Why should it be any different with ND? Exhibition cage birds are maintained in isolated conditions, whether in the birdroom or on the show bench:  at home, there is virtually no chance of them being pooed on by commercial chickens, and at the shows, biosecurity rules mean they don’t come into physical contact with each another. So the risk of transmission at one of our “bird gatherings” is infinitesimal.

Yet, as we had to report last week, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, with whom we need to co-operate in putting on our shows, has insisted that ND declaration forms must be signed at the event. (See News page 4, October 10 issue, for how to get hold of the forms.) It’s crackers, really, but my advice is: download them, print them out, get them signed with the booking-in paperwork, and then get on with enjoying the show. With luck, this latest bit of silliness won’t be with us for long.

■ Joke of the Week (from Stafford): Eyebrows were raised at booking-in for a recent British bird show when an exhibitor unveiled a cage containing a sliced wholemeal loaf. “Sorry,” said the show manager, “that’s not eligible for entry,” “Why not?” replied the exhibitor. “It’s been bread in captivity.” (Thanks, Derek Cotgrove!)

■ Typo of Last Week: “…years of accumulated detritus from his sceptic tank…”  Apologies to “Cyril Haylett” for letting that one, er, stink the place out in his latest “Just Fancy That” column. 

Have a great week – and if you’re showing your birds, may they be placed in front of the judge that you deserve.