Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) under current conditions poses a major risk to human and animal health. Efforts to contain the disease are therefore in national and global interest.
As the most widely practiced control methods for poultry involve culling birds that are infected or in regions immediately around infected animals, the most common practice to ensure the cooperation of owners of birds is to compensate them for the culling of their animals to achieve this public goal.
Early identification of HPAI and the immediate culling of diseased or suspected animals are critical elements of reducing the risk of the disease spreading. The international community and national governments have responded to this challenge by establishing funding mechanisms to enable compensation to assist in this strategy.
Payment of compensation to farmers whose animals are being culled enhances producer cooperation through better motivation to comply with the disease reporting and culling requirements of disease control packages. It reduces the time lag between an outbreak and containment actions, and hence diminishes the overall cost of control.
To the extent that it reduces the virus load, it also reduces the risk of the virus mutating to becoming transmissible from human to human. Enhancing early reporting and complete culling of diseased or suspected birds is thus the first objective of compensation schemes. A second objective can be to reimburse losses of private citizens who have complied with a disease control process for the public good. This is compatible with the first objective.
Compensation rates should be no less than 50 percent of the reference market value of suspected birds at the farm gate, and no more than 100 percent. The rationale for the preferred range of 75–90 percent of the reference price and multiple considerations for being closer to one or the other limit are discussed in the report. Rates should be considerably lower for diseased birds and even less, but positive, for dead birds, to provide positive incentives for early and complete reporting.
Careful attention needs to be paid to bird movements during compensation to ensure that an incentive is not being created for the influx of healthy birds to disease zones or diseased birds to disease-free zones.
In dealing with small farmers in developing countries, compensation should be paid within 24 hours of culling by cash (or possibly voucher where handling cash presents a security threat and credible local formal financial institutions such as rural post offices are available); any delay is likely to have a significant effect on reporting.