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In a last blast before leaving the European Parliament, the conservative agriculture spokesman has issued a warning of the devastation that could be caused to the British pig sector by the threat of African swine fever.
In her final speech to the European Parliament before the UK leaves the EU on 31 January, Anthea McIntyre, compared the threat of an outbreak of African swine fever to the damage caused to the farming sector by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK in 2001.
Miss McIntyre, MEP for the West Midlands, used her last speech in the parliament’s Agriculture Committee to raise concerns over the spread of the disease and how disastrous it would be to the British pig population if it spread to the UK.
She explained the enormous concern of pig farmers on the edge of the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, which is home to a large population of wild boar.
She said: “Britain was scarred forever by the devastating outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 when over 6 million cows and sheep were killed. Farmers in my area are very aware of the potential dangers of an outbreak of ASF.”
She went on to describe the circumstances for a local farmer who breeds Middle White pigs.
“These pigs are a very rare breed. In fact, they are more rare than the giant panda! An outbreak of ASF could completely wipe out the Middle White breed.
“ASF can be brought in to a country through contaminated meat products, maybe in a sandwich, and it is then spread by wild boar.
“I do not believe that the authorities are doing enough to control the wild boar population in the Forest of Dean.
“The importance of bio security is very well recognised, but it is just not possible for every farmer to protect their farms from the encroachment of wild boar. The practicality of keeping wild boar out, as I know for myself, is just about impossible.”
The Committee was told that ASF only affects wild boar and domestic pigs and that it kills one hundred per cent of infected animals.