Vet authorities’ incompetence

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Vet authorities’ incompetence

The rampaging foot-and-mouth disease could have been averted if veterinary authorities had acted by the book from the beginning. As it turns out, their violation of the rules and tepid response to the outbreak of the infectious disease have resulted in a massive amount of damage to cattle farms across the country. We are shocked that the disaster could have originated from the mindless approach to FMD containment taken by the veterinary authorities - even after a whopping 230,000 cattle had to be killed during previous outbreaks of the disease.

On Nov. 23, a livestock farmer in Andong, North Gyeongsang, reported possible symptoms of the disease among his cows. But a local veterinary laboratory ignored it after his cows tested negative in an examination. It wasn’t until five days later that veterinary officials finally decided to quarantine his cattle because of similar reports from other farmers in the area. By that time, however, 15 cows from the farms where FMD was confirmed had already been moved to other parts of the country. And that’s not to mention the enormous amount of unchecked human traffic passing through the area.

According to quarantine rules, the Andong laboratory should have requested the National Veterinary Research & Quarantine Service to conduct a thorough examination of the cattle regardless of the initial test result. That regulation was added after most of the cattle that tested negative in examinations in January and April turned out to be positive for the disease after a more detailed test later on. If veterinary authorities had followed that rule, it could have prevented the spread of FMD.

The result of such a lukewarm attitude has been devastating, because the government has to pay cattle farmers over 300 billion won ($260.2 million) to compensate for slaughtered livestock. The spread of the disease also wreaks havoc on the cattle industry because exports of meat and processed food will be banned for quite a long time.

Nobody knows for how long and to where the disease will spread. Veterinary authorities should be ashamed of their inability to avert the spread of the disease or even to understand the route it follows. FMD has already hit the country three times in this year alone. Now we have no other choice but inoculation, which makes it more difficult for us to regain our FMD-free status once the disease is eradicated. The government should conduct a thorough review of how the disease broke out and who is responsible for such terrible consequences.

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