15 September 2000

MAFF killout aims to curb swine fever spread

By Alistair Driver

MAFF is killing thousands of pigs that vets believe pose a risk of having contracted swine fever amid signs that the disease threatens to spread further in East Anglia.

Its increasingly pro-active approach to disease control follows accusations from pig vets that its reluctance to spend money on controlling swine fever could backfire in the form of escalated costs as the disease spirals out of control.

By Wednesday afternoon, 12 cases had been confirmed in East Anglia, with more "highly suspected" cases awaiting test results. Over 25,000 pigs had been slaughtered, of which 6661 had not tested positive for the disease.

As well as pigs with symptoms still awaiting tests and pigs on farms that had direct links with infected farms, animals on units located near infected farms have been slaughtered.

This follows confirmation of the lateral spread of the disease on to three of the six outbreaks confirmed since last week. Until then, it had appeared the disease had been confined to five farms in one production "pyramid".

MAFF imposed a total killout zone within 3km of a farm in Woodbridge, Suffolk, one of the first to test positive in early August, after lateral spread on to two neighbouring pig farms.

The Pig Veterinary Society wants it to go further. Society vice-president, Richard Potter, and senior vice-president, Mark White, wrote to farm minister, Nick Brown, this week urging him to order the slaughter of all pigs within 3km of every farm affected with swine fever. They told him the high number of outdoor pigs in East Anglia vastly increases the risk of spread by birds, foxes and escaped pigs.

But a MAFF spokeswoman told farmers weekly that there were no plans to extend the killout zones to all infected farms. She said a decision to slaughter pigs near to infected units will be made on a case-by-case basis. She denied that money would be a factor.

MAFF did manage to appease some of the fierce criticism levelled at it in the past fortnight by increasing payments for large pigs entered into its swine fever slaughter scheme to £50 a pig. Farmers will receive £65 a pig in total with the rest coming from a statutory industry levy, which the National Pig Association said was the only option in the face of the governments refusal to pay more. &#42