BORDEAUX, France:- France will cull a further 600,000 ducks as part of efforts to prevent a spread of the H5N8 bird flu virus, the country’s farming minister Stephane Le Foll said on Tuesday. The latest cull will take place in the Landes region of southwest France, which is home to the most of the country’s foie gras producers. France and Hungary have been the countries hardest hit by the highly contagious H5N8 virus that has been spreading across Europe as well as Middle Eastern countries in the past three months.

France launched a massive cull in January to try to contain the virus and said a month ago it would scale back preventative slaughtering after the spread of the virus slowed, but the number of farms infected has nevertheless continued to rise. Foie gras producers have estimated the number of poultry killed or culled due to bird flu in France at more than 3.2 million birds, and have forecast this would rise to 3.4 million as the government extended its culling measures.