Government minister, pig association don’t think border enforcement is taken seriously enough
U.K. Farming Minister George Eustice told the U.K.’s National Pig Association (NPA) that not enough is being done to prevent an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in the country and that an outbreak is “expected within a year.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), devolved authorities and the U.K. Border Force are working together prevent the deadly pig disease from entering the U.K., but the NPA said more action is needed.
“We don’t think U.K. Border Force is taking this seriously enough,” said NPA Chief Executive Zoe Davies. “We are not seeing the posters being displayed with any consistency or prominence at ports and airports and there has been little interest shown in helping Defra to promote these crucial messages.”
Defra and the Border Force are improving intelligence sharing to detect and seize illegally imported pork products and raise awareness among travelers.
“The authorities in England are lagging behind the devolved authorities, which have been far more proactive in displaying posters and checking baggage,” Davies said. “For example, checks in Northern Ireland in June resulted in the seizure of 300 kilograms of illegally imported meat and dairy products and the worrying discovery of the ASF virus in sausages.
“But in England, we haven’t seen any posters at all and Border Force has stated that they do not intend to carry out targeted baggage checks. There are also only two sniffer dogs deployed across the entire country, which is woefully inadequate. We have called for more, but are told it is too expensive.
“If a Government Minister really thinks the virus will be here within a year, it is patently obvious that more resource and effort is needed to keep it out. And Border Force needs to demonstrate that it understands the scale of the threat.”
NPA Chairman Richard Lister said the pig industry is “doing everything it can to minimize the risk,” but that it needs more backing from the government.
“Defra’s awareness campaign, run in conjunction with the industry is helping, but there needs to be proper resource invested to ensure all avenues to prevent disease incursion are explored and a greater sense of urgency needs to be injected into the campaign,” he said. “But if we are going keep this disease out, everyone needs to take responsibility – which is why we need Defra and U.K. Border Force to take this seriously. It’s our job to stop the virus getting into pigs – but it’s the government’s job to keep it out of the country.”
View our continuing coverage of the African swine fever outbreak.