To avoid AI, Olympic host province culls birdsGangwon authorities are asking farmers near Olympic venues to slaughter or relocate poultry to prevent the spread of bird flu, which was detected in North Jeolla on Sunday.
They plan to cull 6,000 birds and compensate farmers with up to 120 million won ($110,000) for their cooperation.
To avoid embarrassing glitches disrupting the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games taking place in Gangwon in February, regional authorities decided to get rid of all poultry in the city of Gangneung and counties of Pyeongchang and Jeongseon, even though no avian influenza (AI) cases have been detected. The discovery of the H5 strain on a duck farm in Gochang, North Jeolla, Sunday inspired authorities to take pre-emptive measures.
The proximity of the Olympic venues to stopping sites of migrating birds like Gyeongpo Lake and Namdaecheon in Gangneung particularly fueled concerns.
“There are going to be serious consequences if AI breaks out during the Olympics,” a Gangneung city government official who oversees disease prevention for livestock said. “Because AI is a zoonotic disease - which means pathogens can be transmitted from animals to humans - some athletes may rethink participation.”
He added, “We decided that the best way to respond was to eliminate the threat, so we had civil servants personally visit and persuade each farmer [to give up their poultry].”
In Pyeongchang, 80 local officials from Bongpyeong, Daegwallyeong and Jinbu towns, home to Olympic venues as well as roads leading to them, are visiting every poultry farmer to encourage them to take a break from raising ducks and chickens.
The government will pay 18,000 won for each bird farmers give up. Provincial, city and local authorities budgeted 120 million won in total for the compensation. Farmers who cooperate must suspend raising poultry until March 31 next year, or return the payments.
Pyeongchang County plans to get rid of 2,817 birds on 155 farms by the end of this month. The Gangneung city government has already culled or sent away 2,307 fowl out of a total of 3,057, while Jeongseon County eliminated 212 out of a total of 500.
So far, most poultry owners have agreed to give up their birds. In Pyeongchang, once they gain the farmers’ consent, employees of the Pyeongchang County Agricultural Development and Technology Center come to take the birds away for slaughter. An official from the center commented, “I expect the Olympics to go well since the residents are being so cooperative.”
Farmers are also getting rid of fowl themselves. Some use them as cooking ingredients, while others send or sell them to other parts of Korea.
One 71-year-old poultry farmer from Gangneung donated a dozen geese to a local senior center and gave others as gifts to relatives. “I was sorry to see them go as I had grown fond of them during the past five years,” he explained. “But I got rid of them because it’s the right thing to do as a resident of the Olympic host city.”
Authorities will also operate disease prevention facilities around Olympic venues in ten regions including Pyeongchang, Gangneung and Jeongseon to be ready to respond to emergency situations. It is estimated that 100,000 people will travel to these regions on a daily basis during the games between next February and March.
BY PARK JIN-HO, KIM EUN-JIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]