The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has paid out almost £2 million (US$2.8 million) in compensation to farmers over the last four years because its low-flying aircraft have scared pigs, lambs and horses to death.
Some £250,000 has been given to poultry farmers because MoD helicopters and planes have left hens so spooked they trampled each other to death, according to the Daily Mail. Some hens who survived were so scared they were unable to lay any more eggs.
A spokesman for the British Egg Industry Council told the newspaper: “Low-flying aircraft can cause the birds to smother in a panic reaction. Smothering is when the hens all pile in on top of each other, sometimes against an obstacle such as a wall.
“The ones at the bottom suffocate. Many hundreds of birds can be lost in this way. The other possible effect on hens from stress is that they go out of egg production and the eggs the hens do produce are often poorly shelled and not fit for the table market.”
The single biggest payout was £79,041 to the owners of a poultry farm in East Sussex where hundreds of birds died when they panicked as a Chinook helicopter flew overhead. Some £23,256 went to a farmer in Cheshire for damage and loss of egg production when a Squirrel helicopter went by.
The ministry also paid £25,000 to a falconry center in Derbyshire which lost birds of prey when a helicopter flew overhead. Eight birds including owls, hawks and falcons are understood to have suffered fatal injuries when they flew into the wire sides of the aviary to get away from the noise.
A Royal Air Force spokesperson told Forces Network: “Low flying is an essential part of operational military training. The MoD understands that it can be noisy and unpopular but strives to ensure that any disturbance is kept to an absolute minimum and spread as evenly as possible throughout the UK.”
They added: “The MoD will pay fair and reasonable compensation when the essential link between the presence of low-flying military aircraft and an incident has been established.”
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