Pig farmers say culling measures are excessive

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Pig farmers say culling measures are excessive

The government faces pushback from pig farmers in its plan to eradicate the pig population in Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi, to halt the spread of African swine fever (ASF).

Korea Pork Producers Association members started staging protests on Monday at the Blue House in central Seoul and at the headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Environment in Sejong against the government’s measures to purchase all pigs in Yeoncheon for slaughter.

Authorities plan to effectively eliminate the disease in the county by slaughtering or culling pigs at farms that are unaffected by ASF in addition to pigs from infected sites. Yeoncheon has had only two farms confirmed with ASF since the outbreak last month. Over 100,000 pigs from 49 unaffected farms in the region are set to be killed.

The government has already rolled out the plan in major infected regions such as Ganghwa County in Incheon and Gimpo and Paju in Gyeonggi. Infected pig farms remain contained in the four regions that are above the capital and near the border with North Korea.

Pig farmers have criticized the policy, arguing that the plan forces farmers to go out of business and will destroy the pig farming industry in the region.

“We strongly urge for an immediate halt to the extermination policy in the Yeoncheon region,” read a statement from the organization on Monday. “With the ASF virus being confirmed in wild boars, the government’s extermination policy against farmed pigs will not contain [the spread of] ASF.”

Four wild boars infected with ASF were found over the weekend in the demilitarized zones of Cheorwon County in Gangwon and in Yeoncheon.

This has prompted pig farmers to turn against the government’s strengthened containment measures against farmed pigs. The farmers have argued that the government should instead focus on capturing wild boar, a more likely source of the virus’ spread, as the government has so far failed to explain how the disease has reached 14 farms across Gyeonggi.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs remained unmoved by the complaints as it is set to expand its precautionary slaughter policy into pig farms in the northern areas of Gangwon near the border with North Korea after confirmation of the infected wild boar in Cheorwon.

The Gyeonggi Provincial Government also decided Monday to purchase pigs from small-scale farms in the province that raise less than 300 pigs for slaughter and prevent the spread of the disease.

The regional government plans to slaughter a total of 13,809 pigs from 119 pig farms.

The central government has also ordered measures to hunt down wild boars, using thermal camera drones and installing barbed wire fences around areas at immediate risk of infection to stop wild boars roaming into other regions. The government plans to offer 100,000 won ($89) per boar in reward to hunters.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]

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