Measures should be truly effective, yet with careful and preventive application

Reasonable approach required in the struggle against African swine fever: as announced at meeting about the epizootic situation in swine breeding and resistance to virus
By Vladimir Khromov

World experience shows that quick and complete slaughter of livestock (domestic and wild pigs) in areas where the disease is centred, is essential, alongside the organisation of buffer zones. In the past, such measures have been used in Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium and the former USSR. President Alexander Lukashenko now considers that Belarus must take the same approach to ensure effective eradication of swine fever, although urges that a reasonable approach is essential.

The President announced at the meeting: “In order to successfully defeat the epidemic, all government authorities and administrative structures must liaise precisely and observe strict measures to ensure hygiene regulations are met in all places where pigs are kept. Naturally, carefully monitoring will play a part.”

According to the President, in order to prevent the disease spreading, preventive measures must be taken. He cited the experience of the Minsk Region, where cattle are slaughtered at the abattoir of a meat processing and packing factory; meat is then either used in the factory or is removed for use elsewhere.

The Government has particular working groups overseeing the process but there have been a lot of complaints. President Lukashenko underlines that the state cannot ignore this problem and the financial implications. However, he strongly objects to creating yet more red tape, preferring to see direct action, saying, “I strongly object to paperwork. We must take concrete measures, as has been confirmed by experience for a long time.”

The President of Belarus is concerned that African swine fever is spreading across Russia, as another outbreak has been discovered in the Yaroslavl Region. “We can’t fence ourselves off from the whole world, especially from Russia. Accordingly, we need to take effective measures,” he underlines, emphasising the necessity of strengthening control over forage arriving in Belarus, and reducing imports. He warns against officials ignoring the trend in African swine fever and has demanded that all possible assistance be given to farmers.

“I’m not greatly worried about the process of this struggle, but I am worried about public reaction to measures undertaken by the authorities and veterinary services. I’m receiving ever more messages to the Presidential Administration: citizens’ appeals concerning how they are treated. We’re carrying out a sacred mission of battling the disease but are also creating a new problem: negative public reaction to our actions and those of veterinary services. I should warn you: this is inadmissible,” said the President.

Mr. Lukashenko notes that African swine fever does not present a threat to human health but admits that, regretfully, no vaccine yet exists for the disease. The only solution is to isolate outbreaks and slaughter animals showing signs of illness, to prevent its possible spread.

He emphasises, “We must eradicate any signs of infection since breaking of elementary sanitary norms and the quarantine regime on farms and private farmsteads could lead to an expansion of the epidemic and seriously damage both the pig-breeding branch and the wider national economy. No spread of the illness is permissible economically — at larger complexes or on private farmsteads. We’ve already lost some pigs (worth over a billion Roubles) so let’s not lose any more.”
Belarus has been promoting the development of pig-breeding countrywide, investing in this sphere for domestic consumption and export.

President Lukashenko feels confident that the strict measures required are being undertaken at pig farms, since no further outbreaks have been reported. Smaller farms seem to be most at risk, with 97 percent of cases occurring on private farmsteads. He is adamant that the disease must not spread to larger complexes.

“We can’t allow the loss of this industry. Pigs need to be bred at each rural farmstead: both for domestic food needs and for wider market sale,” said the Head of State. He notes that private farmsteads currently house about 900,000 pigs: over 20 percent of the total in Belarus.
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