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Protests over Pig Culling in Medan

People protesting with banner "Save Babi"

The North Sumatra Legislative Council (DPRD) building in Medan has been surrounded by a protest to address the thousands of pig deaths caused by African swine fever (ASF) without culling the remaining, healthy animals that has been ordered President Joko Widodo.

Over 40,000 pigs in North Sumatra have been killed and members of the #SaveBabi (#SavePig), led by Boasa Simanjuntak, have said that pigs play an important cultural and economic role for North Sumatra’s Batak people. They added that many politicians had obtained their seats by using funds from the sale of pigs.

“Jokowi should immediately take action to tackle the ASF outbreak, which has caused heavy economic losses among livestock farmers in the province,” Boasa said.

North Sumatra Governor, Edy Rahmayadi, said last month that he was considering a cull of all pigs in the province as a last-ditch effort to halt the spread of the virus. However, Victor Silaen, chairman of the DPRD’s Commission B, has given assurances that pigs would not be culled as they contribute to the province’s locally generated income (PAD).

The North Sumatra DPRD has taken a number of steps to address the outbreak, including summoning regents from the 18 regencies affected by the virus. “Go ahead and eat pork; no one who eats pork will contract the disease,” he said.

Separately, North Sumatra Food and Livestock Resilience Agency head, Azhar Harahap, said no specific funds could be allocated to overcome the outbreak and that his agency had requested funding assistance from the central government. “We have asked the central government for Rp46billion to help handle the swine fever outbreak here,” Azhar said.

Azhar also asserted that culling all the pigs was not a solution as it would be in conflict with a 2012 government regulation on animal welfare, as well as the principles of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

“The North Sumatra administration will not kill pigs because it will harm the community both economically and culturally,” he said.

There is no cure yet for ASF, but the North Sumatra administration had formed a rapid reaction unit to take preventative measures such as spraying disinfectant and cleaning pig pens in order to ensure that healthy pigs do not get infected.

“An average of 302 pigs per day have died from the virus in North Sumatra, which a low rate compared to ASF outbreaks in other countries,” Azhar said. The number of dead pigs totalled around 3.6 percent of the overall 1.2 million pigs in North Sumatra so far.

Source: The Jakarta Post

Image: Tempo

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