Miyazaki seed bulls to be destroyed

MIYAZAKI (Kyodo) The government said Monday that 49 seed bulls in Miyazaki Prefecture will be destroyed to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease there, even though local authorities wanted to keep the animals alive.

The decision was confirmed at a meeting between Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano and senior vice farm minister Masahiko Yamada at the prime minister’s office.

Before meeting with Hirano, Yamada suggested he wouldn’t deviate from the established health rules.

“I think they should be slaughtered,” he said. “There is some semen of the bulls left with us, so it is possible to nurture new seed bulls, and the Miyazaki beef brand will not disappear.”

Meanwhile, examinations started Monday on cows and pigs in Ebino, Miyazaki Prefecture, to determine whether it is safe to lift the ban on transferring livestock around the area.

If the animals are confirmed safe, the ban, covering a 10-km radius from the sites of reported outbreaks in Ebino, will be lifted June 4, allowing the transfer of livestock to resume.

A central government task force and the prefectural government have authorized blood and other tests for 160 farms located within 3 km of the farm where city’s first suspected case of the highly infectious disease was found April 28.

About 40 veterinarians will collect blood samples from up to 30 cows from each of the farms during the three-day examination process, and will observe health conditions of pigs and cows in other parts of the 10-km radius.

The last positive case in Ebino was reported May 13.

“This is a great step forward and an encouragement for farmers in other areas,” Ebino Mayor Takaaki Muraoka said Monday during a meeting with veterinarians.

Local cattle farmers also welcomed the development, but only with caution.

“I hope the latest outbreak of the disease will run its course and end,” said a 77-year-old cattle farmer in Ebino. “But it is still too early to breathe a sigh of relief.”

Also on Monday, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry decided to let operations resume at a meat processing center located within 10 km of where the outbreak was confirmed in Ebino, on condition that sterilization is fully implemented.

The decision came under the government’s policy of creating a “buffer zone” for safety at locations within 10 to 20 km of areas hit by the disease.

The processing center is inside the area where the transfer of livestock is restricted and has been closed since last month.

The Miyazaki Prefectural Government has been calling for a review of the central government’s plan to slaughter the 49 prized seed bulls, but Yamada has said he doesn’t intend to make an exception.