South Korea kills 1.6 million pigs, cattle, & dogs in fight against foot and mouth disease

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  January/February 2011:

–Water taps spat blood on New Year’s Day 2011 in Paju, Gyeonggi Province,  South Korea,  “just one day after some of nearly 1,000 pigs within a 500-meter radius of a foot-and-mouth-hit livestock farm were buried alive to prevent further spread of the disease,”  reported Park Si-soo of Korea Times.

The quarantine officers who ordered the live burial claimed the water would soon run clean,  but “many experts insist that blood from the buried animals will eventually contaminate underground reservoirs,”  Park Si-soo wrote.

“Underground water near burial sites for animals slaughtered between 2008 and 2010 showed high contamination with colon bacillus and other bacteria,”   charged Representative Hong Young-pyo of the opposition Democratic Party.

The pit had a vinyl liner,  but “It’s possible that the vinyl could be torn by animals struggling to survive,”  a quarantine officer admitted to Park Si-soo.

“In principle,  animals are killed before burial,”  Park Si-soo continued.   “But the rule has frequently been violated with the spread of the disease,  outpacing the authorities’ slaughter capacity.”  Several leading newspapers published photos of dump trucks tilting live pigs into burial pits and of pigs trying to climb out of the pits ahead of the machinery that was to cover them.

“People assigned to cull animals are reportly suffering guilt and trauma.  Counseling has been made available for them,” said Korea Animal Rights Advocates.  “The government has ruled out euthanasia drugs for cattle, so cattle are being buried alive as well.”

After weeks of resisting appeals from KARA and internationally recognized disease control experts to begin vaccinating animals against foot-and-mouth disease,  the South Korean Ministry of Food, Agriculture,   Forestry & Fisheries began vaccinating cattle on December 25,  2010,  inoculating 1.2 million within the next two weeks.  On January 6,  2011 the ministry agreed to vaccinate 210,000 brood sows on 1,456 farms.  The ministry allowed vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease only once before,  in 2000.  Vaccination was resisted because international regulations forbid exporting diseased livestock and livestock products.  Foot-and-mouth disease can be stopped by vaccination,  but vaccinated animals test positive for exposure,  and there is no reliable way to distinguish vaccinated animals from infected animals.

More than 1.7 million pigs,  cattle,  and dogs (believed to be mostly dogs raised for meat) were killed between the start of the South Korean foot-and-mouth outbreak on November 29,  2010 and the end of the second week in January 2011.

The toll dwarfed the 160,000 animals killed to stop a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in 2002,  and may be the second largest cull in response to foot-and-mouth disease in world history, trailing only the 10 million animals who were killed to eradicate foot-and-mouth from Britain in 2001.

A South Korean farmer who visited an infected pig farm in China is believed to have started the 2010-2011 outbreak,  which appeared almost simultaneously in South Korea and Japan .

South Korea culled at least 30,000 pigs and Japan killed 85,000 between April and mid-June 2010,  when the outbreak was briefly believed to have been contained–but there were reports of wild pigs becoming infected in South Korea.  Wild pigs may have been involved in the November re-emergence of the disease.


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