Animal welfare group calls for gov’t transparency on African Swine Fever

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 23) — An animal welfare group on Monday called on the government to be transparent about the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country.

World Animal Protection (WAP) on Monday pointed out the government’s lack of appropriate information about ASF, which could have controlled the spread of the disease.

"We have to be transparent as possible without creating panic. Minsan ‘pag walang info (Sometimes, if there is no information), panic is the natural reaction," Mark Dia, the group’s global farming director, said.

"Kung di sigurado ang tao (If people are unsure), they might have been trying to sell the meat, process the meat, transport the meat, hide the pig, throw the pig,” Dia added.

A total of 12 areas in Quezon City and the provinces of Bulacan and Rizal were confirmed to have been contaminated by ASF. The latest was a village in Antipolo City which the Agriculture department refused to disclose.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said pigs in other areas in Central Luzon also tested positive for ASF. The agency will “mention the exact [areas] in due time,” he added.

Meanwhile, around 15,000 pigs, or less than one percent of the total swine population in the country, have been culled. This has no impact on the supply of pork in the country yet, the DA said.

“There's a lot of fear, there's a lot of information that people are not sure of what's going on. It's not helping the situation that at the start of the outbreak there wasn't much admission on the actual severity of the situation,” Dia said.

The outbreak of ASF began on July 25, but officials only confirmed that the disease has been killing pigs in Rizal and Bulacan on September 9. Prior to the announcement, officials said there was an unknown disease killing pigs in August.

“Ibig sabihin prior that pumasok na ang disease sa Pilipinas. (It means the disease emerged in the country before that.) Prior [to] that no information that disease is spreading,” Dia said.

Dar, for his part, said his agency only learned about the spread of the disease days after he took office.

“I came in [on] August 5 and I received the incident report somewhere August 10. They did not report even early July,” Dar said.

Dia also emphasized the need for a humane way of controlling the virus, noting that electrocution is the best option. He added that lethal injection is acceptable for a small number of pigs, while using a gas chamber is ideal for pigs in large farms.

On the proper disposal of infected pigs, Dia said incineration and burial in a pit five meters deep with a top that is at least two meters high are the best options. On the other hand, burning and above ground burial are not recommended, he said.