Agriculture Minister: Bulgaria ‘strictly follows’ EU rules to tackle African Swine Fever

Bulgaria is strictly following the European rules for tackling African Swine Fever, Agriculture Minister Dessislava Taneva said in a television interview on July 27.

There has been sharp criticism of Bulgaria’s handling of the disease, including by the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, while the number of outbreaks of African Swine Fever in Bulgaria has reached 22, including at three industrial farms holding tens of thousands of pigs.

Media reports have questioned the appropriateness of mass burials of thousands of pigs, rather than incineration, raising concerns about risks to groundwater.

Taneva said that there was “road map” to tackle the disease.

“We only need to apply the rules as science in Europe and the world has discovered them. The point is to make sure we limit the damage from this. The truth is that we must be uncompromising with the disease. We will take steps with regard to the definition of sanitary zones and all risk factors there should be eliminated,” she said.

Taneva said that pigs at private farms are one of the main risks in spreading the infection.

July and August would be the peak of the disease, she said.

“Bulgaria is the 12th EU country in which the disease has entered. However, we are the state with the fewest outbreaks and the fewest affected holdings,” Taneva said.

She said that more restrictive measures against the spread of the disease would be forthcoming.

“We will tell people that they should kill their animals. The Czech Republic dealt with the problem because, on the territory of the whole country, besides wild pigs, it culled at the private farms immediately, in order to avoid the contagion reaching industrial pig farms.”

Taneva said that the burial sites were selected by experts, with no risks to soil and water.

All sites for the burial of humanely killed animals were chosen by a commission, acting in co-ordination with all departments involved in the protection of the environment, the regional inspectorate of environment and water and the basins directorate, she said.

“There is no other place where culled animals can be buried. This is also the safest way to deal with the disease,” Taneva said.

A report on the evening of July 26 by bTV said that the culling of 40 000 pigs from an industrial farm in the village of Brushlen in the Rousse district had begun.

Some of the animals were, however, alive at the time of the burial, bTV said in a report from the site.

Not only that, but the people who were burying the animals were not wearing protective clothing. There were no signs to warn the public that the area was hazardous, the report said.

The site, near Slivo Pole, is metres from a grain-producing plant, a poultry farm and a motor vehicle workshop, according to the report.



The Sofia Globe staff

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