National

Japan gears up for pig culls to prevent African swine fever

JIJI

The agriculture ministry will seek to allow pig culls as a preventive measure against African swine fever, something not currently permitted by the law, if the disease is detected in Japan.

The ministry will submit a bill to the Diet next year to revise the Act on Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control, ministry officials said. The law currently only allows preventive killings for dealing with foot-and-mouth disease, which broke out in Miyazaki Prefecture in 2010.

African swine fever, which is rampant in Asia, is more infectious than the standard swine fever currently found in central Japan and does not have an effective cure. The ministry sees the pre-emptive slaughter of uninfected pigs in farms near infected sites as the only viable way to prevent an epidemic.

The culling measure is expected to apply to pig farms within several kilometers of facilities found to have African swine fever infections, according to the officials. The ministry will further consult with experts on the preferable scope for the measure, which is likely to deal a blow to the pork industry.

The bill will also seek to strengthen the government’s authority over swine fever prevention in an effort to speed up the response to outbreaks. It would allow the central government to force prefectures to issue instructions or orders to pig farms with substandard sanitation management.

African swine fever has spread across Asia since its outbreak in China last summer. The disease made its way to South Korea in September, and Japanese officials say it could hit the country any day.

There have been over 80 cases of the African swine fever virus showing up in sausages and other pork products illegally brought to Japan by foreign travelers.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry will boost efforts to stop the disease at the border by increasing the number of sniffer dogs stationed at airports and other points of entry to 140 next fiscal year, up from about 40 currently.

The ministry has also agreed with Chinese customs authorities to strengthen quarantine inspections of farm and livestock products. The two countries also agreed to promote technical cooperation on the use of X-ray equipment, as well as joint campaigns to inform travelers about tighter inspections.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of pigs that died or were culled as a result of the African swine fever outbreak in Asia was about 5 million in the year to last August. The outbreak has led to pork prices skyrocketing in China, which has culled around 1.2 million pigs.