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'No deal' Brexit pig disease warning

PUBLISHED: 11:44 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 11:44 25 October 2018

The NPA has warned of the potential threat of disease spread in event of a no deal Brexit Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The NPA has warned of the potential threat of disease spread in event of a no deal Brexit Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Pig farmers’ leaders have warned a ‘no deal’ Brexit could heighten the risk of animal diseases spreading.

The UK pig sector is currently on high alert as African swine fever (ASF) spreads rapidly across Europe, reaching Belgium in September, and other regions such as China.

In a report published on Wednesday, the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee warned that the UK’s biosecurity could be compromised after we leave the EU, raising concerns about capacity in the veterinary sector, inspections and audits, access to research funding, enforcement of biosecurity legislation and capacity within government departments and agencies

The National Pig Association (NPA), which gave evidence to the inquiry, warned of the risks posed.

“There is a risk that the uncertainty brought about by Brexit would make an easy opportunity for disease to be imported,” it said.

“This could come as a result of fewer resources being put into disease surveillance and border control, less communication with European partners in surveillance activity, or a wilful dilution of standards in imported products.”

NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said the UK pig industry had suffered two devastating notifiable disease outbreaks in the past, Classical Swine Fever in 2000 and foot-and-mouth in 2001, which cost the UK government an estimated £8bn.

“We have been concerned for some time about the issues raised in the report and we are delighted the committee has raised them in its report,” she said.

“The UK pig sector has worked exceptionally hard to maintain its notifiable disease free status and so must be assured that our ability to protect the health of the national herd will not be weakened by Brexit.”

Dr Crayford highlighted cases reported recently where surveillance at airports, including in the US and Japan, has identified meat infected with the ASF virus carried by passengers before it got any further.

“The most likely route of entry for the virus is infected meat brought into the country through our ports or airports – one lapse could cause devastation across the UK pig sector. If ASF got into our herd, it could result in the slaughter of thousands of pigs, effectively bring the pig sector to a standstill for months.”

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