East Anglian pig farmer calls for cull of wild pigs following outbreak of African swine fever in Belgium
An East Anglian pig farmer has called for a cull of wild pigs to help defend the UK herd against a devastating disease which has broken out in continental Europe.
UK pig farmers are being warned to be on the alert following an “extremely concerning” outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in wild boar in Belgium.
Alastair Butler, of Blythburgh Free Range Pork, near Southwold, said it was “a really worrying development”.
“African Swine Fever is something we do not want in the UK, in particular because of the high percentage of outdoor pigs that we have, which will make it harder to control if we did get an outbreak,” he said.
“The positive is that it was only found in wild boar and not the domestic pig population so the fact we are an island should keep it out. “But it does raise the issue that we need to cull the growing feral pig population we have in the UK, otherwise if we do get one of these notifiable diseases in the UK it will be very hard to eliminate. The key here is do everything we can to keep it out.”
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East Anglian pig consultant Peter Crichton described the outbreak, found in four wild boar in the Luxembourg region, close to the border with France, as “shattering news”.
Mr Crichton, who is based at Bury St Edmunds, said measures were already in place to prevent the possible spread of the disease in non-wild boar which could then be transmitted to pig farms.
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“It is hoped that these latest outbreaks will not jeopardise the ability of the European Union to continue to export pig meat to China,” he said.
Pig farmers’ levy payers’ body the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) warned the deadly notifiable disease for pigs, which does not affect humans, is highly contagious.
“It is extremely concerning that African swine fever (ASF), a virus that affects pigs and wild boar, has been identified in Belgium. Focus must be on ensuring ASF does not spread further,” the AHDB said.
“We urge all pig producers to ensure their biosecurity is tight, particularly vehicles, animals and people coming onto their units. We need all pig producers, farmers and the public to pull together to keep this disease out.
“African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious disease of pigs, warthogs, European wild boar and American wild pigs. It does not affect humans.”
Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, lack of energy, sudden death with few signs beforehand, as well as vomiting, diarrhoea, and red or dark skin. Mortality rates can be as high as 100%.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is monitoring the situation.
The most likely mode of transmission is from infected meat products from infected areas being brought into the area by humans, it said.
Anyone who you suspects the presence of the disease must report it immediately by calling the DEFRA Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. Failure to do so is an offence.