Opinion

Stopping swine fever

Stopping swine fever

The public has been advised to cook pork thoroughly as three villages in the town of Rodriguez, Rizal were quarantined starting last Saturday following reports of pigs dying. Checkpoints have been set up in the province to ensure that hogs and pork leaving Rizal are free of African swine flu.

ASF has been detected in 19 countries plus Hong Kong, and the Philippines has banned pork and pork products from these places since September last year. Footbaths have been installed at Philippine airports for passengers arriving from these places.

While there have been reports of possible ASF cases in other areas in the Philippines, the reports in Rizal have raised the strongest concern so far among animal industry authorities.

Many hog raisers in the province are backyard operators who feed their pigs swill or leftover food. Agriculture officials warn that swill feeding raises the risk of ASF. But backyard hog raisers, who constitute approximately 65 percent of pork producers in the country, rely on swill because it is the cheapest hog feed and may even come free, courtesy of neighbors. If the government decides to ban swill feeding, they will have to develop affordable alternatives for backyard hog raisers.

While ASF, which is caused by a type of flu virus, does not affect humans, eating contaminated meat must be avoided. The swine disease, if not controlled, can also devastate the country’s hog industry, including the livelihoods of all those small-scale backyard hog raisers.

Only full public cooperation will ensure that this does not happen. Hog culling is being conducted in the three Rizal villages, and hogs and pork in the province are being subjected to close inspection. There are official meat inspection certificates that consumers can look for in buying pork. With concerted action, the country can keep out ASF, or at least contain its spread.