August 16, 2013
Russia's Belgorod Oblast region destroys 70,000 pigs to stop ASF
In a bid to stop the spread of African swine fever (ASF) and protect large pig farms from infection, Russian authorities are conducting an unprecedented cull of 70,000 pigs in the Belgorod Oblast region.
Veterinary services are killing pigs on small, privately owned farms which have low levels of biosecurity. Rosselkhoznadzor originally planned to destroy all of the carcases, but after protests agreed to allow farmers to eat 45% of the meat from the culled pigs, although they will not be allowed to sell it. The rest of the meat will be burnt.
"This measure aims to prevent the spread of the African swine fever virus and it is necessary because the privately owned and family farms are at higher risk of outbreaks of this dangerous disease," said the head of Belgorod Oblast's department of agriculture, Stanislav Aleynik.
Ten new outbreaks of ASF have already been recorded in the Russian Federation. The last couple of outbreaks occurred in the Tambov Oblast region and both were reported on private farms.
Belgorod Oblast currently accounts for about a fifth of Russia's total pig production - with the main production units of the country's biggest pork producers, including Miratorg and Agro-Belogoriya, located in the region.
The spread of ASF in the region could have potentially disastrous consequences for Russia's pig production.
The confiscation of pigs from private farms by veterinary services has triggered a wave of protests from farmers. The Association of Peasant Farms and Agricultural Cooperatives of Russia (ACCOR) sent an open letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin calling on him to leave private pig farming alone.
"A total ban on growing pigs [on private farms] when the majority of rural households have already reduced the population of their livestock and other animals could be a fatal strike to Russian farming," said the letter.
Representatives of ACCOR also pointed out that the elimination of pigs on private farms could not solve the problem of ASF spread. "We need, above all, the most stringent measures to eliminate outbreaks of ASF. To do this, we must use the full power of the veterinary services. Also, the state should establish clear requirements for the keeping of pigs and toughen penalties for violating them," it said in a statement.