THE DEFRA WEBSITE reminds me of one of those ingenious parrot toys where you conceal lots of treats so that your companion bird is encouraged to search methodically for every tiny reward. Exercises the left lobe of the brain, or something.   

For sure, our environmental masters don’t believe in hiding stuff in plain sight. This week, Laura Welch and I have spent hours trying to find out something simple: what has changed in the law to prompt the requirement for extra paperwork at the Stafford Spring Bird Sale on March 4 (see News). DEFRA did get back to us, which was nice: the answer, they said, was that nothing had changed. We looked at the website again. The relevant legislation is EXD 178(AI), which had been revised last month. We hunted down the previous version of this licence in an archive, printed out the old and new versions, and went through both with a marker pen to highlight the differences.

We did find some, and fairly confusing they were. But the headline news was that yes! The stipulation WAS in place last year to require sellers of birds to declare they hadn’t brought them from an address in an avian disease controlled zone. That’s the form on this page, and if you’re taking birds to Stafford you’ll need to fill it in, either up front or on the door. And we understand that this applies to exhibitions as well as sales, so show managers need to take note.

The punchline? There aren’t currently any avian disease controlled zones of the higher-risk categories: only the blanket Prevention Zone for England and Wales. So you’ve got to declare that you haven’t brought your birds from a zone that doesn’t exist.

But never mind. Let’s be honest, if this is another hoop to jump through for the exhibition fancy, it’s a pretty easy one. Let’s jump through it, and continue to enjoy our shows and sales as we always have done, in peace and within the letter of the law.

These General Licences are full of treats, like those parrot toys. Take GL15, which regulates the showing of mealy redpolls. The licence is valid “in all counties of England (landward of the mean low water mark)”. So if you wanted to stage a decent British bird show at the end of Cromer pier, say, you’d be in deep water, legally speaking. I’ll leave you with that thought. Enjoy your birds this week!

Rob Innes