12 September 2000
Vets slams minister over swine fever
by Alistair Driver
THE government has been accused of repeating mistakes made during the BSE crisis in its attempts to stop the spread of swine fever on pig farms.
The Pig Veterinary Society made the accusation in a letter to agriculture minister Nick Brown. More aggressive action is needed to halt the disease, it said.
The society said it felt that the governments apparent reluctance to spend money on controlling the disease may prevent necessary action being taken.
“There are direct parallels here with the mistakes made by MAFF at the start of the BSE epidemic in cattle,” wrote society vice-president Richard Potter.
The Pig vets have called for the slaughter all pigs within 3km of farms affected with swine fever in a bid to prevent the disease spreading.
They are concerned at evidence that the disease has now spread beyond the pyramid of five farms where it was first identified last month..
Three cases of the disease confirmed last week were on farms outside the pyramid. Industry insiders say more cases are likely to be confirmed soon.
A swine fever outbreak has never before occurred in an area with so many outdoor pig units, many of which are right next to each other, says the letter.
The risk of the disease being spread by birds, foxes and escaped pigs is not catered for by current swine fever regulations dating back to 1956, it adds.
“This development raises the spectre of much more widespread dissemination, with a massive escalation in the costs of controlling the outbreak.”
Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) officials have already imposed one kill-out zone within 3km of a farm in the Woodbridge area of Suffolk.
The farm was one of the first to test positive for swine fever in early August. However the disease has now spread to two neighbouring pig farms.
MAFF has also ordered that all pigs should be killed immediately on farms suspected of having swine fever, rather than waiting first for the results of tests.
However, the Pig Veterinary Society says such a more is already too late.
It wants MAFF to extend the cull, warning that the disease will spread unless urgent measures are taken in all areas where swine fever has occurred.
“Failing to take this action will mean that… the State Veterinary Service will always be behind the game and the outbreak will continue to grow,” it said.
Mark White, a senior vice-president of the society, told FARMERS WEEKLY that a lack of funding may prevent MAFF taking the necessary action.
Farmers within the kill-out zones would have to be compensated for the full market value of the pigs, while infected pigs would be valued at half market price.
But Mr White, who co-signed the Pig Veterinary Societys letter, said he feared that holding back compensation would prove to be a false economy.