MP fights over pigeon flights

A Wigan Euro MP is getting in a flap with the British Government over racing pigeons.

He is supporting borough fanciers in their fight with Whitehall over exactly where the birds can start their epic races from.

Labour's MEP Brian Simpson, from Golborne, believes that it is unfair to allow concerns about avian flu to throttle the fanciers' sport.

Last year Parliament banned pigeons racing from the mainland of continental Europe to Britain because of the risk of bird flu.

Now, after Mr Simpson's intervention, the European Union has confirmed that the risk of avian flu being spread from pigeons is "very low indeed".

And he believes the UK Government may have "over reacted" in banning continental pigeon racing.

Mr Simpson said: "No doubt the UK Government thought it was acting in the best interests of the country.

"But what is clearly apparent now is that pigeon are low-risk in regards to avian flu and the decision to ban continental pigeon racing was wrong."

In a written reply to a question submitted by Mr Simpson, Commissioner Vassillou stated that "the European Food Safety Authority concluded that it was very unlikely for pigeons to become infected with avian flu viruses".

And in a further clarification, the Commissioner pointed out that, even if pigeons were infected by the highly contagious H5N1 virus, there was no evidence that they had the ability to pass on the virus to other species.

He said: "Pigeon racing is still quite popular in and around the North West and the UK Government ban badly affected the ability of pigeon fanciers to participate in their sport.

"I have now written to the Government pointing out what the EU is saying."