ASF: British pig industry braces for the worst

The UK’s pig industry is making preparations for “the worst” in light of news that African Swine Fever (ASF) has been confirmed in Belgium.

Officials confirmed over the weekend that the disease had been confirmed in four wild boars close to its border with France.

It’s the closest this epidemic of the highly-infectious deadly disease has come to the UK.

National Pig Association (NPA) chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We are very concerned as this was a big jump geographically for the virus. It brings ASF closer to the UK and highlights how the virus can be moved long distances to reach new pig populations.

We are doing everything we can to ensure the virus does not reach the UK pig herd; our approach is three-pronged.

“The first messaging to all pig keepers to ensure they are doing all they can to keep the disease out, for example, biosecurity on farm, being aware of any visitors that might have been to infected areas and, of course, reinforcing the message about not feeding food waste or any pork products to pigs.

‘Prepare for the worst’

“We are also urging producers to prepare for the worst and think about contingency planning, if the virus does make it here, which will result in movement bans and other restrictions.

“We are working with Defra and APHA to increase messaging to the public about not feeding feral or outdoor pigs or leaving rubbish anywhere near where they may be active and also warning people coming to the UK from elsewhere about the risks of bringing in meat products and safe and proper handling.

“Thirdly, we are continuing to put pressure on Defra and APHA to manage the risks better and work with UK Border Force to increase messaging at entry points to the UK, mainly ports and airports.

Our focus is on making sure we do absolutely everything we can to keep the virus out – the consequences of ASF reaching our pig herd are enormous, but it will only take one mistake to let it in.

“We also want to ensure we are fully prepared, so we will be ready should the worst scenario happen.”