Union urges united front on pig virus

NFU Scotland (NFUS) has said it is “extremely disappointing” that a voluntary ban on pig imports from PEDv-hit countries has been ignored, with boars from the USA reportedly moving through Prestwick airport.

The union has urged pig breeding companies to uphold the voluntary ban, to keep Great Britain free from the “devastating” porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv), which it said has infected as many as three-quarters of US herds, sometimes inflicting 100% mortality in piglet litters.

The ban excludes live pigs arriving here from the US and Canada, but breaches have been reported, and the NFUS has written to breeding companies “reiterating the urgent need for a voluntary ban on live imports from PEDv-hit countries to be adopted”.

It has also written to Defra farming minister George Eustice and Scottish cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead, asking them to plan for an all-island approach to containing the disease were it to arrive in Great Britain.

Speaking from the EPIC annual meeting in Edinburgh, NFUS president Nigel Miller said: “The threat posed to the health of Scottish and UK pig herds by PEDv is substantial and infection would be a devastating blow to the sector. To preserve the health of our herds from this deadly virus, a voluntary import ban to exclude live pigs from the US and Canada is an agreed priority from industry on both sides of the border.

“It was therefore extremely disappointing that the will of the industry was ignored recently and that a substantial consignment of boars was imported from the US, moving through Prestwick airport, to south of the border.

“Regardless of the assurances given over the health of these boars and the risk associated with that shipment, the lack of respect for industry wishes is a blow and we have written to pig breeding companies calling on them to play their part in keeping this disease away from our shores. Testing and quarantine protocols can offer some protection, but experience has shown they are not fool-proof, especially where new diseases are concerned, and pathways of infection are far from clear. Protecting the industry against infection is paramount and we look for assurances that no further consignments will come in until industry can be confident that the disease risk is minimal.”

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