MOSCOW, August 1 (Itar-Tass) - Russia’s ministry of natural resources has voiced concern over the initiative of the federal veterinary and phytosanitary control agency (Rosselkhoznadzor) and local veterinary services to cull wild boars in European Russia over an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF). Instead, the ministry has suggested a ban should be imposed on pigs and pork movements from one region to another without ASF tests, the press service of the ministry said on Thursday.
According to the ministry, the key factor behind African swine fever outbreaks is the so-called human factor, i.e. violations of veterinary and sanitary norms at pig farms and illegal transportation of infected products. “This is how the virus was brought to the city of Murmansk in the north of the Arkhangelsk region, where there are no wild boars at all,” the press service noted. “Minister of Natural Resource Sergei Donskoi ordered to issue recommendations on the situation monitoring to regional administrations. To prevent a further spread of African swine fever, the ministry proposes to impose a ban on movements of live pigs and pork products from infected areas without an ASF test.”
Earlier, at a government meeting dedicated to measures to prevent the spread of African swine fever, the minister said that culling wild boars was incompatible with principles of preserving biological diversity. “We should not forget that the wild boar is an important component of natural biocenoses,” he said. “In the Stavropol Territory and in the Republic of North Ossetia (Alania), the radical measures have already led to the almost complete extermination of the wild boar population. In the Krasnodar Territory, the boar population has diminished by more than ten times. But despite this, numerous Swine fever outbreaks among domestic pigs are still reported from these regions.”
According to the minister, the bulk of African swine fever outbreaks among wild animal occur because farmers conceal epidemics among their animals and do not observe sanitary norms while disposing of carcasses. Thus, he said, scientific research proved that first caces of African swine fever outbreaks among wild boars in the Tver region in 2011 were registered when farmers threw way carcasses of dead pigs in the local forests and at dumps. “Despite the total culling of wild boars, the African swine fever epidemics among domestic pigs has not stopped,” he noted.
In his words, the experience of anti-ASF campaign in the European Union countries, such as Spain and Portugal, has proved that the most reliable measures to prevent the spread of the disease are bans on movements of infected pork products and strict sanitary norms.
Earlier, Rosselkhoznadzor spoke in favor of culling boars. “The chief problem in the situation around the spread of African swine fever is wild boars, since they carry the virus in forests and pig farms. If we had the authority to cull boars in the affected area when they only crossed from Georgia, we could have avoided the disaster,” aide to Rosslekhoznadzor head Alexei Alexeyenko, told Itar-Tass.
Rosselkhoznadzor departments in the Tver and Pskov regions share the idea of culling wild boars. “We have told the authorities more than once that it is necessary not only to reduce the population of wild boars but to exterminate it completely, and to cull pigs at private households as well, if possible,” said Yuri Danilov, the head of Rosselkhoznadzor’s Tver and Pskov regions department.
As of today, the epidemic of African swine fever has spread across practically the entire European Russia. Some regions are facing a threat of the collapse of the entire pig raising sector. The most difficult situation is in the Tver and adjacent regions, and in the Voronezh region. Direct damage to the sector is estimated at billions of roubles, while indirect damage may reach tens of billions. A special federal program is needed to tackle the problem, Rosselkhoznadzor said. The agency also urges to pass clear nationwide veterinary rules, “since measures taken in individual regions are not enough.”
The first case of African swine fever or Montgomery’s disease was registered in South Africa in 1903. Both domestic pigs and wild boars are susceptible to the disease in natural conditions. The infection is contracted through contact of healthy and sick animals. While the African swine fever is of no threat to humans, it is extremely dangerous for livestock. There is no anti-ASF vaccine and the only way to fight the infection is disinfection, quarantine and the slaughter of the entire pig population in the seat of infection.