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Farmers' union welcome increase of swine fever risk status but warns of 'gaping holes' in biosecurity and demands more

By Niall Harkiss

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Jamie Wyllie
Jamie Wyllie

The Scottish farmers' union has welcomed the decision by UK Government to increase the risk status of people bringing the devastating pig disease African Swine Fever (ASF) to the UK.

The status has been raised from medium to high and NFU Scotland have called for it to go further.

Now that Defra’s own scientists have recognised the threat, NFU Scotland has reiterated its call for the UK Government to introduce appropriate border control inspections on meat entering the country, following up on a letter sent to Defra last Friday.

The decision by the UK Government to upgrade the risk status on ‘human mediated pathways’ follows the spread of ASF westwards across Europe to parts of Germany, with new cases ‘jumping’ several hundred kilometres from previously confirmed cases.

That has led to vets concluding that human movement with infected produce, subsequently fed to pigs or the transport of infected equipment is likely to be responsible.

The Union calls again for the whole risk spectrum associated with the disease to be moved to high and border checks on meat legally entering the country introduced.

Currently, some supermarkets and food manufacturers are importing meat from ASF-free regions of Germany and other countries that have the disease.

However, no checks are currently undertaken by the UK government on Animal Health Certifications to ensure that this is being properly enforced.

NFU Scotland’s Pigs committee chair Jamie Wyllie said: "ASF, were it to enter the UK, is a highly contagious disease that would devastate the Scottish pig herd. The Union is on record as having previously requested that the disease threat from ASF be raised from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’ and Defra vets have taken the first step.

"The UK Government must now go further. Its current plans to postpone proper border checks on food entering the UK from Europe until the end of 2023, given the rising disease threat, remain completely unacceptable.

"We are importing meat from countries with ASF and I struggle to understand why Defra does not aim to close this gaping hole in our country’s biosecurity. It must ensure checks are in place for products of animal origin entering the UK, in the same way that Europe requires checks on UK products entering the EU.

"Protecting our border from disease ingress and implementing proper inspection of meat being imported into our country is entirely in the UK Government’s hands.

"ASF is not in the UK and the Government should be doing everything within its powers to keep it out."

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