Swine Association opposes resumption of vaccination

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 3

The Swine Association urged the government yesterday not to vaccinate pigs against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) despite outbreaks of the disease in central Taiwan last month.

The practice of vaccinating pigs against the disease had nearly been eliminated in Taiwan by the end of last year, but with recent outbreaks at two farms in Yunlin and Changhua counties, the Council of Agriculture was reportedly mulling the resumption of the practice nationwide.

The council’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health declined to comment on the reports, but said “it is about the science. We will make the final decision after talking with the Swine Association and experts.”

WASTE

Swine Association chairman Pen Lien-chou (潘連周) said the reported move would waste the efforts of the past 12 years to build a “zero-vaccine” environment in Taiwan, a key requirement to receive designation as a FMD-free country by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.

Pen called on the government to remain steadfast in its efforts to wipe out the FMD virus and turn Taiwan into an “FMD-free” country.

Lai Shiow-suey (賴秀穗), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Department of Veterinary Medicine, said it was very important for Taiwan to become an “FMD-free” country again.

EXPORTS

Only by being declared “FMD-free” can Taiwan resume pork exports, which would help local pig farmers and improve the nation’s image and competitiveness in the industry, Lai said.

He said the government should devote the funds allocated to a renewed vaccination campaign to paying pig farmers subsidies equivalent to 80 percent of the cost of pigs culled during recent outbreaks.

This would encourage farmers to report outbreaks earlier and make it easier to eradicate the disease, he said.

Lai said the government should stick to its goal of eliminating all FMD vaccines by this month.

PROGRAM

Taiwan launched a program in April 2007 to stop giving hogs anti-FMD vaccines.

Through the program, the proportion of pigs not receiving vaccines increased from 10 percent in 2007 to more than 90 percent as of November.

FMD vaccinations were scheduled to be terminated this month, but that schedule was disrupted by the recent outbreak, Pen said.

Taiwan was first hit by FMD outbreaks in 1997, which forced the government to cull 3.8 million pigs and delivered a heavy blow to the country’s pork exports.