The Rt. Hon. Nick Brown
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
1A Page Street
London, SW1P 4PQ.
The Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) feels obliged to write to you in order to explain its fears about the measures that are being used to control the Swine Fever outbreak in East Anglia. Recent evidence of the lateral spread of the disease from infected farms into neighbouring pig units is of great concern, especially as it had been felt that the disease was contained.
This development raises the spectre of much more widespread dissemination, with a massive escalation in the costs of controlling the outbreak and also of human and animal misery. The important point is that never before has there been an outbreak of Swine Fever in an area where there is such a high density of large pig farms housed outdoors, as is the case in Norfolk and Suffolk.
The control measures in the 1956 Swine Fever Order are insufficient because the disease will be spread far more easily in these systems and the very close proximity of these herds to each other will encourage this process. In pig herds of this sort, there are always very large numbers of birds, mainly sea-gulls, crows and rooks which feed on traces of food left on the paddocks after the sows have been fed.
These birds will visit many outdoor pig herds every day when the stock are fed. Foxes regularly take young piglets and will move them considerable distances before they eat them. Pigs frequently escape from their paddocks and wander onto adjacent outdoor pig farms. Unfortunately, these vectors of disease will not obey your movement restrictions and the fact that large outdoor units are so close together in many areas of Norfolk and Suffolk, in our view, makes it inevitable that disease transmission will occur.
The remedy for this potentially disastrous scenario is to take much more aggressive steps to stop lateral spread by immediately killing all pigs within the vicinity of a farm with Swine Fever.
PVS strongly recommends that this zone should include all pigs within 3 Km of the infected farm, and that this should be carried out as soon as an infected farm is identified. Failing to take this action will mean that because new cases of Swine Fever will already be incubating in neighbouring herds the State Veterinary Service will always be "behind the game" and the outbreak will continue to grow.
There are direct parallels here with the mistakes that were made by MAFF at the start of the B.S.E. epidemic in cattle. Reluctance to spend enough money on aggressive control measures at the start of that problem led to vastly escalated costs as the epidemic grew out of control.The same risks apply with Swine Fever and PVS strongly recommends that you address this by authorising the immediate automatic slaughter of all pigs within 3 Km of infected farms.
Richard Potter, Vice-President,
Mark White, Senior Vice- President