After our meeting today with Defra, we would advise anyone who is looking to fly from France/EU either this year or next season 2023, to apply now for your CPH number.
The reason being is that there are sufficient resources now in place to deal with applications. However this resource will be limited moving into Christmas and the New Year, so the longer you leave it, potentially the longer it will take to get your CPH number.
To guarantee that you will not be disappointed in 2023 we advise you apply now!
As you may have seen there have now been 6 organisations that have successfully raced from France this season, and we anticipate that more will follow in 2023.
01/07/22: A meeting with Defra/APHA took place this morning. Representing the RPRA was President Les Blacklock, Development Officer Richard Chambers and CEO Ian Evans.
Discussions included the following:
1. There are now 1,290 registered lofts in England and just 12 outstanding applications, all of which were less than 3 days old. The most recent available figures for Scotland showed 205 registered lofts, although it was acknowledged that these were not the most up to date figures. The Welsh Government did not have any available figures.
2. There are a number of myths published on social media that are possible barriers to people applying. Defra will be providing updated Q&A’s and social media posts that will hopefully help provide factual information to dispel such myths. This will include, but will not be limited to, what powers Defra have in the event of a disease outbreak for registered lofts, as opposed to non-registered lofts.
3. The issue of the veterinary requirements at each marking station. This was highlighted as a significant barrier. It was outlined that this requirement is based on the RCVS guidance/regulations and not Defra’s. Please note that the RPRA through David Parsons has already met with the RCVS to raise this issue and discuss possible solutions. We have also asked Defra to open up discussions with the RCVS; their input is essential as they control the issuing of export certificates. The RPRA will be putting forward a proposal for suitably qualified members to be trained, and therefore replace the vets at the marking stations. Please note this proposal will still require an Official Veterinarian to sign the Export Health Certificate. There is no guarantee this proposal will be accepted but clearly we need a solution to this barrier and everything will be done to try and find a solution.
28/06/22: As of today there have been 1270 applications for a CPH number for the purposes of cross channel pigeon racing. 1228 of these applications have been fully processed and a CPH number issued.
A number of applications have been delayed due to being incomplete or completed incorrectly. Please take care and review applications before submitting.
24/06/22: I am aware that a number of members have been waiting a long time for a CPH to be issued.
Members who applied prior to 1st June 2022 and have not received a CPH are encouraged to forward the following information to RPRA Development Officer, Richard Chambers:
• Email address (used in the application)
• Date of application
The email to Richard should be accompanied by a statement that the member is happy for the RPRA to share this personal data with Defra/APHA. Any email without this statement will not be accepted; we will not be chasing members to provide this statement. This data will help prove (or otherwise) that members are waiting beyond what should be considered an acceptable amount of time for their CPH, and therefore hopefully help to alleviate the issue.
15/06/22: If you are intending on sending over the Channel in 2022, please watch the following video that vet David Parsons has kindly put together, showing the steps you need to take in order to send to France/Spain this season.
06/06/22: There are currently just three French ports that have suitable veterinary services to facilitate the entry of racing pigeons in the EU. These are Caen, Cherbourg and St Malo.
The Federation Colombophile Francaise (FCF) has contacted me to bring to our attention that some UK based pigeon fanciers have approached French clubs in the Calais area to accept their pigeons for entry into the international races. The FCF are concerned that some fanciers may try to ‘force their way’ through the Calais port that is currently NOT approved to deal with the entry of racing pigeons. Such actions could ruin the work undertaken by the RPRA and FCF in recent weeks to facilitate continental racing, and could jeopardise future races from the continent. Such actions may also have a negative impact on the Belgian organisers and the international convoy.
May I remind fanciers that the BICC is set up to provide international racing for the UK, and therefore members should enter such races through the BICC, who will make arrangements to transport pigeons into France for the international races.
The RPRA have been and will continue to work with the FCF to bring the relevant veterinary services to Calais. However, until such services are confirmed you CANNOT use Calais to enter the EU with racing pigeons.
02/06/22: I am delighted to inform members and organisations that – while replicating the processes and requirements involved with racing from France – we have successfully moved pigeons from multiple lofts, on the same vehicle, through UK and French Border Control. The pigeons are now on their way to the French liberation site where they will be liberated tomorrow.
This ‘trial run’ was carried out to identify any issues or pitfalls before organisations move larger numbers to France later this month.
Based on this experience, we hope to produce guidance to assist those organisations who wish to carry out cross channel racing this year.
A massive thank you to those involved in organising this ‘trial’.
27/05/22: RPRA Development Officer, Richard Chambers, has now put together an instructional video on Part 2 of the process that all English, Welsh and Scottish lofts have to complete to fly in the EU.
Please note you can only complete this next stage once you have a CPH Number! If you do not have this number, please wait until you receive the number to complete the Operations Declarations Form.
If you have not applied for a CPH Number (Defra Registration) please follow the instructions in the Part 1 video below.
N.B. You will receive an activation email from Defra to activate your email address, which must be clicked within 12 hours or it will expire and you will need to reapply. If you don’t appear to have received an activation email, check your spam/junk folder.
24/05/22: Many of you will have already seen a publication that outlines that the guidance associated with the completion of the Export Health Certificates will require a veterinarian to be present at each marking station. Although the certificate has to be signed by the Official Veterinarian (OV) those vets present at other marking stations do not need to be OVs but MRCVS vets.
Today I have met with NFC, MNFC, BICC, BBC and CSCFC representatives to update them in relation to the complexities associated with the EHC.
I am in the process of arranging meetings with other organisation representatives that have previously indicated that they still wish to race the channel. Those organisations that carry out central marking will of course only require one vet (the OV).
Since the latest meeting with Defra, we have proposed a different approach to replace veterinary officers at marking stations. This proposal is based on the processes adopted when exporting of commodities. This includes a process where Certification Support Officers (CSO’s) are used in replace of veterinarians. The idea is that individuals or members of organisations complete an online training course (there is a cost) that then allows them to carry out the required certifications process at marking stations. This will then reduce the number of veterinary officers required to just the OV who signs the export health certificate at the final loading point. However, there is no guarantee that this process will be agreed or be in place by the time organisations start racing from France.
24/05/22: We are aware that members are struggling to follow and meet the requirements of the Defra registration process published below. The exact details and process was not shared with myself until approximately five minutes before it was published, and we therefore did not have an opportunity to write any guidance that would help members.
RPRA Development Officer Richard Chambers has put together the step-by-step instruction video below, which shows exactly what to do from logging on to pressing send on the email that will submit your application.
After you have registered and received your CPH number, there is one other thing you need to complete. This is regarding an Operations Declaration. We will put out a video showing what to do for that when we have further information. Everyone who is intending on racing from the EU this year needs to complete the CPH application shown in this video.
We will also try to produce some simplified guidance. Early feedback from Defra suggests that many applications are being submitted incomplete, and therefore cannot be processed . Please make sure that all compulsory information is supplied.
Loft Registration and Export Health Certificate Procedures
24/05/22: Defra have this morning sent us the details for the loft registration and Export Health Certificate procedures. Their communication states:
“From 24 May 2022 a new Export Health Certificate for racing pigeons from Great Britain (GB) sent to the EU or Northern Ireland (NI) for the purpose of immediate release for racing back to Great Britain, will be available on GOV.UK.
“A registration system for establishments (pigeon lofts) will also be available from 24 May 2022. Establishments must be registered with the competent authority if keepers want to use the new EHC and move racing pigeons from that premises in GB to the EU or NI for the purpose of immediate release for racing back to GB. We will register lofts as quickly as possible but please allow at least 6 weeks for your application to be processed.
“Pigeon lofts that do not wish to engage in racing from the EU or Northern Ireland are unaffected by these changes.
“If you wish to partake in the racing of pigeons from the EU or Northern Ireland back to GB you must use the new EHC and obtain registration of your loft.
“See the attached FAQ for more information on certification and registration.”
Please note that lofts only need to register; the Export Health Certificate will be obtained by clubs/organisations.
17/05/22: One of the most popular questions we are getting asked about loft registration is ‘will I need a visit from a veterinarian before racing?’
The answer to this is that following registration with Defra you will need to register with a veterinary practice before you can race. However, a visit from the veterinarian does not have to have been completed prior to racing, but will have to have been completed within a period that Defra/APHA will confirm in their communication on the 24th May.
Another question is ‘what information will I need to register with Defra?’
For this, we understand you will need just basic information, such as name, address and other contact details. You will not, for example, be required to submit a ring list.
All other information including ‘what will the veterinarian be looking for when visiting?’ will be clarified in Defra’s publication, but as an indication this MAY include notifiable diseases such as Paramyxo.
16/05/22: A list of Veterinary Practices for Loft Registration and Official Veterinarians (OVs) for Export Health Certificates can be downloaded below.
This list is not intended to be an RPRA recommended or approved list of veterinarians, but simply a list to help members and organisations identify veterinary practices that can provide the services required for Cross Channel racing. It is not an exhaustive list; there will be other practices that can provide the same services.
Please note that many of the practices quote hourly rates. It would be advantageous to arrange visits in groups of lofts, to get the best possible deal. It is estimated that a loft visit should take approximately 30 minutes, although this will depend on the practice and individual circumstances. You will need to discuss cost and times with the practice to establish an accurate position.
Download: Veterinary Practices List (updated 20/06/22)
11/05/22: Further to my statement issued yesterday, I wish to clarify that only lofts that wish to take part in channel racing are required to register with Defra. If you do not intend to race across the channel this year, please do not try to register, as this will adversely impact on those that wish to do so.
In addition, if you do not intend to race old birds from the channel, please leave it until 6 weeks after the launch of the registration process to try and register.
10/05/22: At today’s meeting with Defra and representatives from the devolved Governments we were informed that:
1. The registration process for England, Scotland and Wales will go live at 10am on 24th May 2022;
2. Due to the possible high level of demand on registration in England there could be a period of up to 6 week before all lofts are registered;
3. The Export Health Certificate, along with all guidance notes, will be published on 24th May 2022.
Defra has indicated that following the registration process going live we will be kept updated of the amount of applications for registration and how many loft s they have registered. This will then give us a clearer picture of how long it will be until all lofts are registered.
Website links and information on how to register will be published on the RPRA website at 10am on 24th May.
There will be more detailed information published over the next two weeks.
06/05/22: Today I received the following email from Defra:
“Apologies for the delay in responding to you and for not providing more detail sooner. We appreciate that this is frustrating for your members.
“Since our last meeting colleagues in Defra, Scottish and Welsh Governments have been working on making a registration system, Export Health Certificate and necessary guidance available as soon as possible. We expect to be able to share documents with you very shortly. To this end we would like to meet you with our Scottish and Welsh colleagues early next week to discuss the launch of the new process, if your association/union is able to do so?
“We would suggest 1pm on Monday 9 May or 1pm on 10 May. Please let us know asap and we will schedule for a meeting that suits best.”
I have replied stating I will make myself available for both days.
25/04/22: A copy of the CEO’s recent e-mail to the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Pigeon Racing can be downloaded here.
We request all members send a copy of this communication to their MP, along with a letter/email requesting their MP supports this request.
22/04/22: In my previous update of 7th April I stated that the Defra loft registration process would be published within two weeks. This week I have been ‘chasing’ confirmation in relation to the process. However, as of 4.30pm today, Friday 22nd April, I have received no information in this respect. I appreciate this is a frustrating position for everyone concerned and is impacting on the start of organisations’ channel race programmes.
I will continue to push for this process to be published as soon as possible, and as soon as I have any information I will share it through the normal channels.
In the meantime I have held meetings with various veterinary practices to establish a list of of such practices that are willing and able to carry out loft visits to adhere to the EU loft registration requirements, and also compile a list of Official Veterinarians that are able to sign export health certificates for organisations. This list will be published sometime next week, and will be updated as and when necessary.
Finally, I wish to clarify that the loft registration process is one imposed by EU regulations (not Defra) for those lofts wishing to race from EU countries. The reason that they have to be registered with Defra is purely down to the EU regulations requiring lofts to be registered with the competent authority within the country of origin. In the UK the competent authority is Defra.
07/04/22: At today’s meeting with Defra, the following was discussed:
The process for registering lofts was outlined. Details on how to register will be published in the next two weeks via Defra/RPRA and other unions.
From what we are told, this will be a relatively straightforward process that can be done online or via a form that can be posted to Defra
A somewhat surprising point was that the EU require lofts that wish to take part in channel racing to be registered with a veterinary practice, and have at least one visit from a veterinarian per year. It was stated that you will not need to have had a visit from a veterinarian before registering or racing, but you will be expected to have a visit within the year and each year thereafter.
All birds in the loft will have to be vaccinated, not just the ones you are racing.
The Export Health Certificate
Defra are seeking clarity from the EU in respect of one part of the certificate before publishing and providing guidance for the official veterinarians that are required to sign the export health certificate on behalf of the convoy.
As mentioned above, the details regarding processes of registration will be published within the next two weeks.
01/04/22: The meeting scheduled for today with representatives from Defra has been postponed until Thursday 7th April. I received notice late yesterday afternoon, and despite my respectful request that this meeting is not delayed I have been informed that due to the availability of Defra officials that this meeting cannot go ahead. Although disappointing, we have to consider the competing priorities Defra have with the ongoing Avian Influenza issues in the UK. However, I know first hand that Defra have given this issue due consideration and have been working hard with the RPRA and EU, on behalf of the confederation to achieve a solution.
Despite this disappointment it is important to note that due to the amendments made by the EU to the requirements of entry for racing pigeons, we now have a solution to the issues that prevented racing from the continent in 2021.
As a summary the requirements of entry into the EU from UK are as follows:
1. The pigeons have to be vaccinated against Paramyxo. The vaccine used has to be one approved for use in the UK by the VMD.
2. The lofts/premises of origin have to be registered with the competent authority of the third country; in the UK this is Defra.
3. Each convoy will require an export health certificate signed by an official veterinarian (OV).
At next week’s meeting we hope to be able to confirm the registration process with Defra.
We are working with an OV to produce guidance that will assist organisations in achieving channel racing for their members. However, this guidance cannot be completed until we have had the meeting with Defra.
Clearly, we now have a solution to meeting the requirements of entry that will facilitate channel racing in 2022. We ask that everyone remains patient and we will publish an update as soon as possible following the meeting with Defra.
25/03/22: I have received a call this morning (25th March) to confirm that the EU has amended the export certificate to include the amendments highlighted in my last update. I have not seen the document but it is in the hands of DEFRA who will arrange a meeting next week ( date to be confirmed) to discuss next steps including loft registration etc.
This is clearly very good news.
14th March 2022: Despite my publication of 2nd February, where I asked for patience and outlined what was required to achieve Channel racing, there are still many posts on social media that demonstrate a lack of understanding of what is required; it also demonstrates frustration in relation to publishing the relevant confirmation. While I understand people’s frustration, their misleading statements do nothing to help the situation – quite the opposite.
In my update of 2nd February I outlined what was required to achieve the position of being able to race from the continent in 2022. If you have not already done so then please read this update available below.
In summary the statement outlined the following;
The latest amended Export Health certificate published in January by the EU would not work. Therefore, the certificate required amending. I outlined that we had direct conversations with the EU and via Defra to achieve these amendments, and although I could not provide any guarantees, the EU through DG Sante (Department of Health) had indicated in an email that these amendments would be agreed.
The update then went on to outline that as soon as the certificate was amended Defra would publish a document for members to register their lofts, as per EU requirements. However, Defra could not and would not publish such a document until the certificate had been amended. In short, until the certificate is amended the registration document does not exist. As soon as it does it will be published on the RPRA website along with a notice on social media, BHW and an email sent to club secretaries.
My update also outlined that the indicated timescales to achieve these amendments was weeks, but highlighted that progress was very much in the hands of the EU. Six weeks later the document has not yet been amended, but we are receiving indications that this will happen within the next two weeks, and possibly this week.
I can guarantee you that this is the most important item on my/our agenda and that as soon as is reasonably possible (after the EU amend the health certificate) we will be publishing guidance and the relevant documents for registration; BUT we cannot do any of this until the EU amend the certificate.
I remain confident that this issue will be sorted to facilitate Channel racing in 2022.
07.03.2022: Please note that, as at today, there is still no agreement on the registration process that lofts need to comply with in regard to Channel racing.
We hope that a Defra meeting will be held within the next two weeks, and as soon as we have more information this will be sent out to members, organisations and the fancy press.
02/02/22: You will all be aware that since the UK left the EU, and following the implementation of the new EU Animal Health Laws in April 2021, we have been working with the EU to find a ‘solution’ that would facilitate racing from EU countries.
The following is a timeline in terms of developments and links to the relevant regulations
21st April 2021: Delegated Regulation 2020/692 comes into force.
From April 2021 pigeons moved into the EU from any country that was not in the EU (a Third Country) would require
- a health certificate, signed by an official veterinarian (not any veterinarian but one approved to sign health certificates);
- negative laboratory tests for Avian Influenza and Newcastle disease within 14 days of movement;
- A period of quarantine prior to movement and at the country of destination.
- In addition the pigeons would have to come from approved establishments (lofts).
September/October 2021: Delegated Regulation 2021/1705 is published and adopted by the EU.
This regulation provided Derogations (Exemptions) for pigeons moved from a third country to the EU as part of a race. Therefore making pigeons exempt from: quarantine, laboratory tests, health certificates.
The requirement for premises approval also moved from approval to registration. This is an important issue as the requirements of each are vastly different, with the approval process requiring establishments/lofts to be under the care of an Official Veterinarian. Remaining requirements included that the pigeons were vaccinated against Newcastle disease (Paramyxo).
Since its adoption we have been working with Defra to establish a process of registration that would meet with the requirements of the EU and also to establish if any amendments were required to the current vaccination process within the UK.
January 2022: Implementing Regulation 2022/37 is published and adopted
Regulation 2022/37 published last month provided the paperwork required for entering the EU. You can imagine that we were all surprised to see the inclusion of a Health Certificate (Annex 34a) of the regulation. Although this health certificate did not require a period of quarantine or the laboratory tests, it did require lofts to be approved rather than registered and also the signature of an official veterinarian.
In addition, the health certificate is written in a way that pigeons from different lofts could not be moved on the same vehicle.
The requirement for a Health Certificate and premises approval was surprising to me and Defra, when considering that regulation 2022/37 states that it is based on the derogations published in regulation 2021/1705.
Since the publication of regulation 2022/37 the following actions and progress has been achieved:
1. I met with Defra officials to discuss the content of regulation 2022/37 and the impact this would have on the prospect of racing from the continent in 2022. By the time we met, Defra had already met with EU officers to raise awareness of the issues.
2. There have been a number of communications direct with the DG Sante (EU Department of Health), facilitated through a number of European friends/organisations, to raise these issues directly between the RPRA and the EU.
3. A meeting with a UK official veterinarian has taken place to discuss processes and amendments required to facilitate racing.
The outcomes are as follows:
It seems that the Health Certificate is here to stay. However, the indication from the EU (including written communications direct with the RPRA) are as follows:
1. The requirements will revert back to a registration process for lofts, as opposed to the onerous approval process.
2. The certificate will be amended to allow pigeons from multiple lofts to be transported on the same vehicle.
3. The Health Certificate will be required for each convoy, rather than each loft.
Assuming the above amendments are agreed, then I am confident we can put in place processes that will enable racing to take place from the continent in 2022.
These processes will require a Health Certificate for the convoy. As a result, we have procured an official veterinarian to advise us on processes and paperwork required and to also identify suitable veterinarians from all parts of the UK. It is envisaged that the Health Certificate could be signed at the final pick up point/marking station. In the meantime we will start work on guidance/protocols in terms of the processes/paperwork required (much of which you would have already been implementing in previous years). This MAY include but MAY not be limited to:
- a record of all birds on the vehicle (race entry sheets);
- vaccination declarations/evidence;
- a record of all baskets and seal numbers, including a record of the birds within each basket/crate.
- Additional paperwork may include a record of loft registration with Defra.
The cost of a veterinary certificate will vary. However, based on the conversation with the official veterinarian, this is likely to be between £300- £500 per convoy.
The EU has indicated that amendments will be published in weeks. Although this is positive, we must consider that Defra will not be able to publish documents for premises/loft registration until these amendments have been published. Therefore, to manage expectations, we must consider the workload that Defra will have to deal with; assuming there will be thousands of lofts requiring registration we must assume that this work will not be completed in a short period, but hopefully in advance of the start of the channel season.
I hope that you will appreciate and recognise what a difficult task this has been, and therefore remain patient in the knowledge that everything that can be done will be done. It has never been as straightforward as will ‘they’ let us race from France etc. The French, for example, have always been willing to provide a liberation permit to UK organisations; it has been the requirements of entry that has prevented racing.
Clearly there will be changes to the processes and paperwork required to achieve racing from the continent. However, without providing any guarantees, I am confident we will get there – there is light at the end of the tunnel.
As soon as there are any developments we will publish an update.
23/12/21: The last update below, in relation to Channel Racing and EU Animal Health Laws, includes a statement that outlined the hope that we would be in a position to provide clarity in respect of the remaining issues by the end of this year. This included the vaccination process and registering of lofts with the competent authority (Defra).
Unfortunately, as at today we are still not in a position to provide such clarity. We are working closely with Defra, who in turn are working with the EU. We have recently learned that the EU are working on a document that would be used at border control in order to enter the EU. As soon as we have any update, we will publish the information as soon as possible.
08/10/21: Yesterday evening I received confirmation that the amendments to the EU Animal Health Regulation outlined in my update of 10th September 2021 have been fully adopted by the EU and are therefore now part of the European Journal. This means pigeons entering the EU from a Third country (UK) for the purpose of racing are exempt from the onerous animal health requirements that stopped continental racing in 2021. These exemptions are detailed in regulation 2021/1705.
The RPRA and Defra will continue to work with the commission and relevant authorities to establish how we adhere to the remaining requirements detailed in my update of 10th September. As soon as we have clarity in this respect a communication will be published. We aim to achieve this position by the end of this year.
10/09/21: Further to my update of 19th July, I am now in a position to provide members with a detailed update in relation to the proposed amendments to the EU Regulation 2020/692.
The amendments have now been adopted by the EU Commission but are subject to scrutiny by the EU Parliament/Council. My understanding is that if there are no objections from the Parliament/Council that the revised regulations will appear in the official journal of the EU and are therefore agreed. Timescales seem to suggest that this could happen by the end of September 2021, but this is not guaranteed.
At this point it will be helpful to summarise the original requirements of EU regulation 2020/692 that have made racing from the Continent for organisations impossible.
- A test at an approved laboratory for Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza would have to be taken by each loft/establishment 7-14 days in advance of each race.
- Each Loft/Establishment would be required to obtain a Health Certificate signed by an approved Veterinary officer prior to each race.
- Pigeons would have to be quarantined within the lofts for a set period, meaning no mixing with pigeons from other lofts (so no races, group training etc.)
- The Pigeons would then be required to be quarantined at the country of destination
- Each loft/Establishment has to be registered with the competent authority. In the UK this is DEFRA/APHA
What are the Adopted amendments?
The adopted amendments have now been published and can be obtained at this link.
What I consider to be the relevant points have been extracted, copied and pasted in italics below;
Extracts the amending Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/692 supplementing Regulation (EU) 2016/429 of the European Parliament and the Council as regards rules for entry into the Union, and the movement and handling after entry of consignments of certain animals, germinal products and products of animal origin
(14) Racing pigeons fall within the definition of ‘captive birds’ laid down in Article 4, point (10), of Regulation (EU) 2016/429. Therefore, the specific animal health requirements for captive birds laid down in Part II, Title 3, Chapter 2, of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/692 apply also to those animals. However, those requirements limit the possibility for the entry into the Union of racing pigeons from a third country or territory or zone thereof with the intention that they will fly back to that third country or territory or zone. Moreover, racing pigeons introduced into the Union with the intention to fly back to the third country or territory of origin or zone thereof do not pose the same animal health risk as other captive birds. Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/692 should therefore be amended to provide for a derogation from the specific animal health requirements for captive birds for the entry into the Union of racing pigeons from a third country or territory or zone thereof where they are normally kept, with the intention to be immediately released with the expectation that they will fly back to that third country or territory or zone thereof.
‘Article 62 Derogations from the animal health requirements for the entry into the Union of captive birds
- By way of derogation from the requirements laid down in Article 11 and Articles 54 to 58, consignments of racing pigeons which enter the Union from a third country or territory or zone thereof where they are normally kept, with the intention to be immediately released with the expectation that they will fly back to that third country or territory or zone thereof and which do not comply with those requirements, shall be permitted to enter the Union if they comply with the following requirements:
(a) the Member State of destination has determined that the racing pigeons may enter into its territory from that third country or territory or zone thereof in accordance with Article 230(2) of Regulation (EU) 2016/429;
(b) they come from a registered establishment, within a 10 km radius of which, including, where appropriate, the territory of any neighbouring country, there has been no outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza EN 12 EN or infection with Newcastle disease virus for a period of at least the preceding 30 days prior to the date of loading for dispatch to the Union;
(c) they have not been vaccinated against highly pathogenic avian influenza;
(d) they have been vaccinated against infection with Newcastle disease virus and the competent authority of the third country or territory of origin has provided guarantees that the vaccines used comply with the general and specific criteria for vaccines against infection with Newcastle disease virus set out in point 1 of Annex XV;
(d) they come from an establishment where vaccination against infection with Newcastle disease virus is carried out.
- By way of derogation from the requirements laid down in Articles 59, 60 and 61, the competent authority of the Member State of entry into the Union may authorise the entry into the Union of racing pigeons which will not be transported directly to a quarantine establishment approved in accordance with Article 14 of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/2035 if they are: (a) racing pigeons
which have entered into the Union from a third country or territory or zone thereof where they are normally kept in accordance with paragraph 2; (b) released immediately, under the control of the competent authority, with the expectation that they will fly back to the third country or territory of origin or zone thereof.’
What does this mean?
The content of the adopted regulation has been discussed at a meeting with myself and DEFRA officials. DEFRA have a number of actions points, to obtain clarity from the EU in relation to these requirements; once clarity has been obtained we will publish an update. Please note that this could take a number of weeks or months but we hope to be in a position to provide a clear position by the end of this calendar year.
In summary the adopted amendments remove the requirement for
- Laboratory tests
- Quarantine – both in the UK prior to racing and within the EU
- The Health certificate
These following requirements will remain;
- The country of destination allows the entry of racing pigeons in accordance with article 230 of regulation 2016/429.
- The loft/establishment/premises has to be registered with the UK competent authority.
- The Pigeons will be required to be vaccinated against Paramyxo/Newcastle Disease.
- The liberation of the pigeons has to be controlled by the competent authority in the country of destination.
We are seeking clarification in relation to the requirements of article 230 (point 1 above). However, we must consider that racing pigeons and captive birds are currently allowed entry in EU countries from the UK; it is the existing requirements of such permission, which has stopped continental racing in 2021.
With regards to the liberations; the liberation of pigeons on French territory is already written into French law and is controlled by the FCF who provide permits through the RPRA for each liberation. Therefore, DEFRA will be establishing whether this covers the requirement of control by the French Competent Authority. DEFRA will also be approaching other EU countries such as Spain to establish their position/controls in this respect.
The RPRA has already opened up discussions with DEFRA in relation to the process for registering premises and how this, while considering GDPR, could be facilitated through the RPRA membership database.
The process required to evidence vaccination is also being discussed in terms of establishing whether any changes to the current process are required.
There is still much to be clarified but clearly the fact that these amendments have been adopted by the commission and have therefore cleared the first hurdle, is very promising.
By the end of September we hope that the adopted amendments have been ‘approved’ by the EU Council/Parliament.
Then, by the end of the calendar year, we hope to be in a position to clearly communicate the processes required to enter the EU with pigeons, for the purpose of racing. Then start working with organisations to communicate these requirements and put in place whatever infrastructure is required.
A printable copy of this article can be downloaded here.
04/08/21: The BICC brought to our attention that a single loft has been able to successfully comply with current regulations and send their pigeons to the Perpignan International this coming weekend. This has been achieved at significant cost to the individual member concerned, reported to be in the region of £750. It is assumed these costs relate to the required health certificate.
Whilst it seems that it is possible for an individual to race across the channel, it has come at a significant cost to that individual member which would clearly be prohibitive to the majority of RPRA members. Putting aside the cost and taking into consideration the existing UK infrastructure of relevant authorities (approved veterinarians etc), it would be impossible to facilitate racing for organisations given the large numbers of pigeons and competitors.
The RPRA is committed to finding a sustainable, long term solution for all of our members and we will continue to work together to achieve a return to channel racing for all. Our previous communication outlined that there are steps being taken within the EU to amend the current regulations, although these amendments are currently not approved. Based on this we are more than hopeful that a solution will be achieved in advance of the 2022 season.
19/07/21: Yesterday I received a draft copy of proposed amendments to the new EU Animal Health Law. You may recall at the start of the year my communication highlighted the possibility within the regulations for derogations (exemptions) under Article 62. The draft amendment does include proposed derogations that IF approved, would be a huge step towards achieving continental racing in 2022.
I must stress that there is still a long way to go. The RPRA will continue to work with DEFRA, FCI and other European colleagues and friends to hopefully achieve the desired outcome.
06/07/21: I am conscious that it has been over 5 weeks since my last update. Therefore, I wanted to update members in terms of actions and strategy.
Long Term Objectives
It has been widely publicised that the new EU Animal Health Regulation (2020/692) makes it virtually impossible to facilitate racing from the continent. With this in mind our attention has to be focused on a long term solution that can only be achieved by an amendment to this regulation. Therefore, a petition has been drafted with a view to petitioning the EU commission to amend the relevant regulation/ rules of moving pigeons from the UK into the continent for the purpose of racing.
I am aware of an EU petition circulating on social media that has received a great deal of support from UK pigeon fanciers and their families. However, this petition will not help our cause as it focuses on the movement of pigeons between members states and not Third Countries. Furthermore, it is my understanding that only EU citizens can petition the commission and that petitions can only be raised by organisations based within the EU. As a result, we have approached the FCI for their assistance. This petition will be circulated to the national racing pigeon bodies of EU member states, to publicise wide and far among their members and request their support.
In addition I have met with representatives of the NFC and BICC who are keen to help. They are currently approaching EU based lobbying organisations to identify suitability and to establish cost.
Short Term Objectives
As previously publicised, the EU commission agreed to a transitional period before implementing the new regulation. However, during the transitional period member states can apply their own rules in relation to the movement of racing pigeons from Third Countries. The current rules being implemented by the French authorities are as onerous as those contained within the EU Regulation 2020/692. A supportive French senator will be raising a question, aimed at helping the short term movement into France, at the French Senate on 13th July.
Despite the assistance of the FCI and numerous emails to other EU countries, we have been unable to establish the rules of moving pigeons into other EU countries during the transitional period.
All Party Parliament Group (APPG)
The Chair of the APPG will once again be writing to the DEFRA Minister, highlighting the issues and requesting assistance in negotiating a solution. This letter will be published in due course.
28/05/21: The situation regarding channel racing has not changed since our announcement on 21st May. We will continue to work with those bodies and individuals outlined in last week’s update.
As soon as we have any news, we will provide an update immediately.
21/05/21: As previously published, the EU has agreed to extend the transitional period for the new Animal Health Regulations until October 2021. This news was taken as a positive step towards achieving channel racing, with the understanding that we would be able to move pigeons into the EU on the same basis as we have for decades.
However, during the transitional period, EU member states are permitted to apply their own national rules, and this is where we currently have an issue. The French position is that an Animal Health Certificate remains a requirement. The requirements of the Health Certificate include but are not limited to:
1. The loft being under the surveillance of an approved veterinarian, who would sign the Health Certificate, that in turn requires points 2 and 3 below.
2. The pigeons could not take part in any races for a period of 30 days prior to being moved into France.
3. Each loft would have to supply evidence of a negative test for Paramyxo and Newcastle Disease, carried out by an approved laboratory at least 7 days in advance of being transported.
What is being done?
Discussions are ongoing. The RPRA is working with the appropriate UK authorities, APPG, a supportive French Senator, the FCF and FCI to lobby the French authorities. These discussions are based on the low risk pigeons pose to the spread of the two diseases at the centre of the health certification requirements – Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza. The aim is to remove the requirements of the Health Certificate and proceed on the same basis as we have for decades.
As a contingency we are also exploring the rules associated with moving pigeons into Belgium, Holland and Germany. It may prove possible to move pigeons into these countries without the Health Certificate. If this proved positive we would at least provide an opportunity for cross channel racing from these countries.
Why hasn’t the RPRA previously explored the possibility of racing from other European countries?
Because until the EU applied the transitional period mentioned above, such actions would not have been possible.
We will provide the next update as soon as we have any information or by next Friday at the latest.
14/05/21: Within our previous update we outlined the importance that the EU position was communicated to the relevant member states and the relevant customs authorities.
The current position is that there is still not an agreed process to allow the smooth entry into France. We are working with Defra and a contact in France, who in turn is working with the French Customs in an attempt to reach a position where all sides are aware of the required paperwork and process to facilitate entry.
In the interest of the pigeons’ welfare, until this process has been agreed we would advise against any organisation trying to enter France with pigeons for the purpose of racing. There remains a real possibility that entry would be refused.
We will provide an update as soon as the position is clarified.
06/05/21: At a meeting with Defra today it was confirmed that the EU Commission has agreed to provide a transitional period for the movement of racing pigeons into the EU for the purpose of racing.
This transitional period will run until October 2021, after which time we will have to meet the requirements of the new Animal Health Requirements, unless derogations can be achieved.
From recent communications with French Border Control Posts it is obvious that this information has not yet cascaded down to the staff on the ground. Defra have a meeting next week where they hope to accelerate this information.
However, due to the levels of Avian Influenza on the continent at this point in time, the General Licence does not allow us to race from the continent. This position will be reviewed next week and we hope to have news within the week after next.
I am sure that everyone will receive this as positive news. The largest hurdle to channel racing now has a temporary solution. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff at Defra, who have worked to a position that means we have a temporary solution to the Animal Health Law.
More information will be published in due course.
15/04/21: The following has been provided as an update by a representative of the Export Team at Defra:
A meeting took place on Tuesday 13th April between Defra and the Commission. On the long list of agenda items was the impact of the New Animal Health regulations on channel racing. Defra have now followed this with another written request that focuses on the avenue to achieve derogations (Exemptions) outlined in Article 62 of the Delegated regulation 2020/692.
In addition, I wish to inform members that the RPRA President has written to the French Minister of EU and Foreign Affairs outlining our issues and requesting assistance. The Federation Colombophile Francaise (FCF) and Federation Colombophile Internationale (FCI) have also committed to write to the Minister and support our request for assistance.
The FCI and their European colleagues are also attempting to get this issue placed on the agenda at the Commission.
May I take this opportunity to thank everyone who is supporting these efforts in a positive manner, and also stress how important it is that this is done through a co-ordinated approach organised through the RPRA.
Update 09/04/21: The following is an update in relation to the correspondence between the RPRA and the Directorate General Sante of the EU.
The correspondence below will demonstrate that we are no closer to achieving a position that will facilitate channel racing but that we are doing everything we can to achieve this position.
We will continue to keep you updated.
CEO’s reply to DG Sante dated 8th April 2021
Dear Mr Van Goethem, Thank you for the latest reply. Your time and assistance in this matter is very much appreciated.
Please would you provide a little more of your time to answer the following questions.
I accept that the provisions of article 2016/429 require the movement into the union to be as stringent as the movement between member states. However, the current position is that the requirements of regulation 2020/692 and therefore movement into the union, are far more stringent for Racing Pigeons transported for the purpose of racing. The articles within the regulation make it impossible to move racing pigeons into France and other EU member states. What we are trying to achieve is parity in relation to the requirements associated with the movement of racing pigeons into the union and the movement between member states. i.e. parity between regulations 2020/688 and 2020/692. We are attempting to achieve this aim for the same reasons that the representatives from members states lobbied for amendments to regulation 2020/688 in relation to racing pigeons. Please note we are not asking for any amendments relating to the permanent import of racing pigeons from the UK but for the purpose of racing and therefore the temporary ‘import’ of pigeons that are released to fly back to the UK – a non-commercial process that has happened for one hundred years without any negative impact on health.
These amendments include:
1. Removing the requirement of the 21 day isolation period for pigeons being transported for the purpose of racing
2. Removing the requirement for a Health certificate, endorsed/signed by a veterinarian appointed by the competent authority and replacing this with an owners declaration.
Will regulation 2020/692 also be amended to reflect the requirement for racing pigeons contained within regulation 2020/688 and therefore be as stringent as those contained within regulation 688 ? If not could you explain why? What is the rational behind the difference in approach?
I am aware that the current discussions in relation to derogation’s relate to article 61 and not article 62. However, Article 62 states that derogation’s can be achieved in relation to articles 3 to 10, 11 to 19 and 53 to 61; if the third country is specifically listed for the entry into the Union based a equivalent guarantees. This suggest that derogation relating to the health certification and housing requirements prior to movement can be achieved.
How are such derogation’s achieved ? Is this an application to the commission from the UK Government? Are these derogation’s something that member states can apply ?
Finally, thank you for confirming how the transition period will work. Given that regulation 2013/139 made racing pigeons exempt from such certification processes when transported for the purpose of racing; I am not aware of any existing certificates for this purpose. Therefore, how can we be expected to comply with the new requirements by using non-existent certificates ?
I am assured that the UK competent authority has made an initial written request to the commission in respect of the new AHL but to date they have not received a reply.
In the meantime I would be grateful if you could find the time to reply to my questions
DG Sante reply to CEOs email previously published
Dear Mr Evans,
As regards your question on the approach of current and future rules, please note that according to the provisions of Regulation (EC) 2016/429 (Animal Health Law – AHL) the rules for entry into the Union should be as stringent as those for the movement between Member States. Therefore, since there are rules for the movement of racing pigeons between Member States, racing pigeons are also included in the scope of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/692 for the entry into the Union.
As regards the amendment of Regulation (EU) 2020/692, please note that the discussions in relation to racing pigeons relate to the provisions of Article 61, not Article 62. In that respect, we are considering the possibility for a derogation, under certain conditions, from the obligation that racing pigeons are kept in an approved quarantine establishment for 30 days. It will be, therefore, up to the competent authority of Member States to assess on a case by case if the specific conditions for allowing for such a derogation apply.
Finally, as regards your question on a transitional period, please note that AHL and Regulation (EU) 2020/692 will apply as of 21 April 2021. Therefore, as of that date racing pigeons should comply with the rules laid down therein.
The transitional period until October 2021 refers to the certificates that should accompany the animals for their entry into the Union. In particular, the draft implementing regulation laying down the certificates for terrestrial animals provides that during that period animal should be accompanied by the certificates applicable before 21 April 2021.
I understand that this issue is complex. I would, therefore, urge you to contact the competent authorities of the United Kingdom for any further information needed.
B. Van Goethem
Update 30/03/21: Further to the CEO’s communication last week (below) in relation to channel racing and the Animal Health requirements, he has decided to publish details of the issues and the possible solutions. This includes extracts from communications with the EU Commission representatives of the Directorate General for Health (DG Sante), as well as a detailed overview of the relevant EU regulations.
As you will be aware, we were informed by DEFRA that pigeons transported from the UK to the EU for racing purposes were exempt from the animal health requirements. This – at the time – was accurate, as the relevant EU Regulation 2013/139 provided specific exemptions in this respect. However, this did not take into consideration the new Animal Health Laws/Regulations coming into force on 21st April 2021. These new regulations do not provide exemptions for racing pigeons transported for racing purposes.
The report below (click on the link) provides an overview of the issues relating to the new Animal Health laws, and the potential solutions to channel racing.
Update 25/03/21: As you will be aware from my previous post (below), Defra had confirmed that racing pigeons transported into the EU from the UK for racing purposes, i.e. to be liberated in the EU to fly back to the UK, were exempt from the Animal Health Requirements. Following this confirmation we have been working with French Border Control to establish what paperwork was required. The outcome of this has been that there is a very different opinion to the ‘import’ of racing pigeons into the EU from the UK for racing purposes, in terms of the health documentation.
The current position of the French border control would make the prospect of racing from France or any EU country virtually impossible.
There has been successful lobbying of the EU commission by the FCI and European racing organisations in terms of exemptions for racing in relation to the the new animal health laws. While it seems the commission has now excluded racing pigeons from such requirements, it has recently become apparent that this is only the case for transport within the EU, by EU members states.
What is being done?
I am in regular contact with French Border Control, FCI and FCF (French Pigeon Racing Federation) to try and reach a position whereby we can make channel racing achievable. I have also brought this issue to the attention of Defra, who are looking into the issues.
While I am not an expert in the animal health requirements, I am of the opinion that article 62 of the Animal Health Requirements for Third Countries (countries outside of the EU), that allows such countries to apply for certain derogations (exemptions), is the avenue to take. However, the process for achieving these derogations is yet to be confirmed. The FCI and FCF are currently assisting in trying to establish the process with the Commission and the French Authorities.
Please be assured that everything that can be done is being done.
Update 20/01/21: The impact of Brexit on channel racing has been a concern for pigeon fanciers all around the UK. The required health documentation and processes relating to the import and export of the avian species, published since Brexit, has increased these concerns.
The relevant EU regulation that covers the transportation of the avian species from third countries (countries from outside of the EU) into a European Union member state is 2013/139.
The following has been extracted from the regulation:
“This Regulation shall apply to animals of the avian species.
However, it shall not apply to:
(f) racing pigeons which are introduced to the territory of the Union from a neighbouring third country where they are normally resident and then immediately released with the expectation that they will fly back to that third country.”
Nevertheless, I considered it prudent to seek confirmation from the relevant authority than no additional health documentation is required. I am pleased to communicate that I have received confirmation from the Centre for International Trade (via the APHA) that pigeons transported to an EU state are exempt from the requirements that have caused so much concern.
The reply is quoted below:
“Your understanding is correct; effectively there is no change to the requirements. Retained EU Regulation 139/2013  does exclude racing pigeons in the scope in Article 2, and no additional documentation would be required. There is just a change to our country status from a member state to ‘neighbouring third country’.”
I am sure members will be pleased to read this confirmation.
Please note that this relates to the transportation of pigeons for racing purposes, and not the permanent import of pigeons from the EU. In this respect I am still seeking further clarification and will update members as soon as I am in receipt of such information.
In addition to the above I am also aware of information circulating relating to vehicle emissions. I have seen social media posts that suggest there is a blanket ban on vehicles that don’t meet certain emission requirements travelling in France. This is not true. However, there are currently a limited amount of low emission zones with certain restrictions; we will publish information shortly outlining where these emission zones exist.