AFRICAN SWINE FEVER: “SHOOTING, SHOOTING, SHOOTING IS NOT THE SOLUTION”
The African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) is a serious viral disease that infects domestic pigs and wild boar (humans are not susceptible to the virus). Having been successfully eradicated from the EU mainland in the 1990s (although still present in Sardinia), the disease has recently been detected in wild boars in Lithuania and Poland.
In January this year two wild boars tested positive for ASFV in Lithuania (one was found dead about 40 km north of the Belarus border and the other was hunted about 5 km from the border; the distance between the two animals was 36 km). One month later the Polish authorities confirmed two cases of infected wild boar in their country (one found dead about 900 m from the Belarus border and the other about 3 km from the border; the distance between the two animals was 15 km). The most likely scenario appears to be the passage of wild boars from Belarus where the situation of ASFV has been described by the European Commission as “out of control”.
The risk posed by wild boar, however, should not be overestimated and must not result in overreactions in the countries where the ASFV has been detected or in disease-free countries.
There is a high level of awareness and preparedness in the Member States, being coordinated under a common EU framework overseen by the European Commission. In Lithuania and Poland regionalised measures are put in place in accordance with the so called EU African Swine Fever Directive (Directive 2002/60):
Commission Implementing Decision of 27 January 2014 concerning certain interim protective measures relating to African swine fever in Lithuania available here.
Commission Implementing Decision of 18 February 2014 concerning certain interim protective measures relating to African swine fever in Poland available here.
Council Directive 2002/60/EC of 27 June 2002 laying down specific provisions for the control of African swine fever available here.
The recent detections were in fact made through surveillance in buffer zones already established before those discoveries, showing that there is an effective system in place.
In a special report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) evaluating possible mitigation measures to prevent introduction and spread of the ASFV through wild boar, published on 14 March, the scientific experts conclude that “drastic hunting is not a tool to reduce the risk for introduction and spread of ASFV in wild boar populations”. This report is downloadable on the EFSA website.
The same day as the report was published the Directorate General for Health and Consumers (SANCO) in the European Commission conveyed the same message at a meeting of the Animal Health Advisory Committee (AHAC). Organised several times a year, these AHAC meetings are an opportunity for SANCO to brief relevant stakeholders and sectors (animal producers, transporters and processors, trade and consumers, animal welfare NGOs etc.) about new developments and future work in the domain of animal health. Attending on behalf of Europe’s hunters was FACE’s Legal Advisor J. Svalby. The Commission concluded that “shooting, shooting, shooting is not the solution” to the ASFV, but instead that the priority is the containment of the disease in the infected areas and the prevention of infection of domestic pigs. The Commission also underlined that the current ASFV situation for wild boar is not a disease crisis.
The Commission’s presentation is available online.
Participants were informed that an international meeting on ASFV and other animal health issues at the wildlife-livestock-interface will be held in Paris on 24-25 June later this year. At this event, being organised jointly by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), FACE’s Senior Policy Advisor Y. Lecocq will make a presentation on ASFV and wildlife from a European perspective.
Overall, the European Commission’s approach to and guidance on how to effectively deal with the ASFV appear sensible and science-based. In addition to the abovementioned statements and recommendations, the Commission published in mid-January its ‘Guidelines on surveillance and control of African swine fever in feral pigs and preventive measures for pig holdings’. This document contains a section on hunting, where it is inter alia clarified that increased hunting pressure may not be the best solution, as it may increase movements of wild boar. See page 8 on this advice in the guidance document.
Hunters will continue monitoring the health status of wildlife, including playing a role in protecting farmed animals from the ASFV. Hunters are encouraged to look into any possible information from the national authorities with regard to trophies from hunting trips to areas in countries from where the ASFV has been reported (Lithuania, Poland, Belarus and Russia). This in order to minimise any risk of spreading the disease.
There is, however, at this stage no need for overreaction in the form of calling for increased, drastic hunting of wild boar. FACE agrees with the European Commission that the strategy for wild boar must be sustainable and long-term.
More information can be found on the Commission’s web portal on ASFV.
CONTACT - Johan Svalby, firstname.lastname@example.org