Scots farm leaders call for united approach to PEDv protection

NFU Scotland have called for a raft of measures to be put in place to enable an “all island” defence to be mounted in the event of PEDv reaching the UK.

The union wants serious thought to be given to the preparation of a PEDv contingency plan, supported by levy funding, under-pinned by a containment strategy if the UK’s defences against the virus are breeched.

Union president, Nigel Millar, also said it was “extremely disappointing that the will of the industry was ignored recently and that a substantial consignment of boars were imported from the USA, moving through Prestwick airport, to south of the Border”.

As a result, NFU Scotland has now written to Defra Farming Minister George Eustice and Scottish Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead, asking them to support an all-island approach to containing the disease, were it to arrive in Great Britain.  The Union believes that any PEDv contingency plan, particularly on infected premises in the early stages, could be supported by levy funding.

They also said that if this initial response fails, a containment strategy will be essential, with Scotland’s Centre for Epidemiology, Population health and Infectious disease Control (EPIC), understood to be already looking at risk and control strategies.

“The success of any approach in combatting PEDv will be determined by the weakest link in our defences,” said Mr Millar. “Robust action and an all island approach has the best chance of keeping us free of this dreadful virus.  Were it to arrive, then speed is everything in disease control and in reducing the health, welfare and economic impact of a virus like PEDv.  Prompt reporting or diagnosis must trigger an immediate response to shut down the disease.

“The industry has a role in highlighting the risk on grower units; the need to take episodes of profuse scour seriously and to test for PEDv. Clearly high piglet mortalities on breeding farms will press immediate alarm bells.  There is also a need for Ministers to back up a proactive industry and look at introducing notifiable status for PEDv to ensure reporting and communication is embedded within the pig sector.  

“The industry accepts that behind the reporting and standstill standards, it should also take much of the responsibility. Were we to suffer an incursion, levy funding could be used to support robust action to eliminate the disease on the first few infected premises.  In such an emergency situation, we believe it would be appropriate for the levy bodies and the governments in both Edinburgh and Westminster to agree and support a common approach. That levy funding, perhaps utilising some of the dislocated levy linked to pigs slaughtered outwith the country of origin, could help fund a joint eradication programme.”

The president added that while the politics around dislocated levy funds are sensitive, it was important that, in extreme disease situations, everyone collaborated to deliver the best outcomes and avoid unnecessary losses and suffering.

“In writing to George Eustice and Richard Lochhead,” he added, “we hope all parties can commit to a collaborative strategy and fast track the required structures and process.”  

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