Countryfile puts spotlight on African swine fever

BBC’s Countryfile programme focused on the threat facing the UK pig industry from African swine fever (ASF) on Sunday night.

Pressenter Tom Heap pwarned that the virus, which has spread across Europe over the past few years, could wipe out the pig industry if it reaches the UK.

He spoke to Wye Valley farmer Richard Vaughan, who owns half of the country’s Middle White herd, and is deeply concerned by the proximity of feral boar in the Forest of Dean. Mr Vaughan called for proactive measures to control the population before it is too late, stressing that an ASF outbreak would be disastrous for pig farms like his own.

This message was endorsed by NPA chief executive Zoe Davies, who called for the Government to review its ‘horribly out of date’ feral boar action plan, which rates the risk of ASF incursion as ‘negligible’.

She gave a personal account of her experience of working on the first farm to be identified with Classical swine fever in Suffolk in 2000.

“We had 3,500 pigs on site at the time and every singe one had to be culled as a result of the disease. It was the worst experience of my like and I wouldn’t anyone to have to through what we went through,” she said.

The feature went to look at how the virus has been spreading in Europe and how it could enter the UK. It also looks at possible solutions, including, with the help of PVS president Duncan Berkshire, the potential of gene-editing technology to develop pigs that are resistant to ASF.

The feature is available on iPlayer, from 12m35s, here

NPA is urging producers with outdoor pigs in particular to put up signage in paddocks next to public footpaths and with public rights of way, telling people not to feed the pigs due to risk of spreading disease.

Free signs are available from AHDB Pork. Email: comms@ahdb.org.uk

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.