New South Wales to set world precedent by vaccinating instead of killing farm disease hosts

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2000:

LONDON, U.K.; SYDNEY, Australia––Marksmen with silencer-equipped rifles on March 3 killed the entire 215-member rhesus macaque colony at the Wobern Safari Park in central England.

The massacre came at management request and expense, after health officials found that the macaques carried simian herpes B virus––harmless to the colony, but potentially lethal to humans.

It was business as usual to veterinary and agricultural public health specialists.

Britain has killed four million cattle since 1986 to combat bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Malaysia killed 800,000 pigs in 1999 to eradicate Nipah virus. Hong Kong killed 1.5 million poultry and cage birds in January 1998 after five people died––months earlier––from AH5N1, a newly discovered strain of avian influenza. Taiwan killed 3.8 million pigs, sheep, and cattle in 1997 due to hoof-and-mouth disease.

Virologists have understood for nearly 30 years that rabies cannot be eradicated by trying to kill the wild hosts––as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual Compendium on Rabies Control has warned since 1973. Yet vaccinating 70% of a host species typically stops rabies cold.

Poisoning street dogs, feral cats, and other species in the name of rabies control has accordingly provoked protest recently in locales as varied as India, Indonesia, Mexico, Bolivia, Russia, Romania, and Turkey.

The Montana policy of excluding brucellosis by killing bison who enter the state from Yellowstone National Park has meanwhile drawn lawsuits and civil disobedience almost every winter since 1988.

Yet killing livestock who would be slaughtered for meat anyway within weeks or months has rarely generated public concern despite the cruelty involved, the harm to national economies, and the stress to troops and civil servants who have been drafted to help do the killing––even when off-the-shelf vaccines existed to control if not eradicate the target diseases, and any gains from the killing have soon been lost through failure to vaccinate, as in Taiwan, where hoof-and-mouth has already reappeared.

Authorities in New South Wales, Australia, however, hinted in early March at a change of approach in fighting Newcastle disease, a scourge of poultry flocks worldwide. Finding even one infected bird in a flock has traditonally meant killing all––1.9 million in New South Wales during April 1999 alone. The killing has usually been done via carbon monoxide but sometimes farmers have simply turned off the air circulation in tin-roofed sheds so that the birds died from overheating.

“Five weeks ago another outbreak happened near Tamworth,” reported Brigid Glanville of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on March 8, “and NSW Agriculture soon realized the disease is not eradicable. At a meeting of agriculture ministers last week it was decided that the birds on the Tamworth farm will not be slaughtered.”

Instead, explained NSW Agriculture deputy director general Richard Sheldrake, DVM, vaccination will become the required Newcastle disease treatment––just 204 years after British physician Edward Jenner discovered the vaccination principle.

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