AHDB director: Farmers to face ‘foot and mouth scale disruption’ if ASF arrives in UK

British pig farmers could face foot and mouth style restrictions should African Swine Fever enter the UK, one of the sector’s highest-ranking analysts has warned.

In a letter circulated to UK agricultural media editors, sector strategy director of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Angela Christison warned that the disease was spreading across Europe and had already devastated China’s breeding herd.

“The most likely way the disease could reach the UK is in pork products made from infected pigs. African Swine Fever does not affect humans or other animals, but infected pigs usually die or are euthanised,” she said.

Prevention is paramount. Large-scale farmers and smallholders alike are working (and praying) that the crisis never hits and the public has a part to play in protecting these animals by discarding any imported food responsibly.

“Commonly, outbreaks have been attributed to feeding pigs infected food. For this good reason, in the UK it is illegal to feed any kitchen scraps to pigs.

“Wild boar can also gain access to left-over food through the innocent discarding of imported processed pork meat/salami etc.in picnic areas, lay-bys and lorry parks. It is vital that left-over food is discarded into secure rubbish bins.

If, or when, African Swine Fever arrives in the UK, farmers will experience pig movement restrictions, similar to those enforced by the authorities when foot and mouth struck in 2001, along with the emotional turmoil and the distressing images of the compulsory culling of herds. Which would be a catastrophe.

African Swine Fever and why you need to know about it

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a contagious viral disease affecting pigs and wild boars, but not humans.

The virus can be transmitted easily from one animal to another, either through close contacts between individuals or by contaminated equipment such as vehicles or boots.

It can also be transferred through food remains and worryingly even survives cooking.

There is currently no treatment or vaccination against the disease. Strict prevention and control measures are defined at European and national level.

The disease has such devastating effects that an outbreak in the late 1970s saw every pig in Malta killed. Over the space of 10 years, more than a million pigs were also lost to the disease in Russia.

The latest advice on the disease can be found on a dedicated page on the AHDB website.