Pig farmers have been told to “batten down the hatches, close the gates and get ready for the storm” that is African swine fever (ASF).
With the disease recently discovered in wild boar in Germany, the warning has come from farmers’ union’s pig committee chairman Jamie Wyllie who called for urgent action to stop ASF from reaching the UK, potentially devastating the industry and wiping out pork products from supermarket shelves.
There is no cure for the disease which causes up to 100% mortality in pigs and can stay active for over a year in meat products, even after the curing process.
The East Lothian farmer said that although the government is aware of the threat – with official estimates predicting it could spread from one end of the country to the other in about a month – not enough is being done to stop it happening here.
Writing in NFU Scotland’s (NFUS) blog, he insisted there are not enough signs at transport hubs to warn people not to bring meat into the country.
He added: “The NFUS pig working group, along with one of the largest pig co-ops in Scotland, offered to fund signage to get the ball rolling, but valuable advertising space got in the way of protecting our country’s home production.
“When will those with the power to implement change wake up and do something?
“Maybe only once the disease enters the UK, but by then it will be too late.”
Mr Wyllie said China lost half its production in the space of a year, despite the size and geography of such a vast country.
“The UK is 39 times smaller than China and in certain parts of the country quite densely populated with pigs, therefore I don’t think it is unrealistic that a large majority of farms in the UK would probably get infected, and fairly quickly, devastate home pig production,” he said.
He also pointed a finger at some farmers who, he claimed, still feed pigs scraps from the kitchen and are not aware of the risks.
He said: “It is illegal to feed any foodstuff that has entered a kitchen to pigs because of the risk of cross-contamination – even potato peelings.”