EUROPEAN experts have appealed to shooting ‘tourists’ from the UK to help control the spread of African Swine Fever.
In Europe, the highly contagious disease is currently largely confined to wild boar and domestic pigs in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland but can be spread elsewhere following contact with infected animals. The disease has been present in Europe since 2014, but no vaccine currently exists.
Vets and other animal professionals are concerned that those travelling into affected areas can inadvertently transfer the disease into areas not currently affected.
During a two-day animal welfare workshop in Bulgaria – BASC was present to represent the UK organisations affiliated to FACE – the role of UK hunters in controlling the disease was highlighted.
Tom Van der Maele, the FACE (Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the European Union) expert on African Swine Fever, said: “It is very important for hunters to understand how the disease is transmitted. UK hunters going to Poland for wild boar shooting, for example, must take high bio-security measures.
“They must thoroughly clean and disinfect all equipment and leave nothing in the forest, not even any part of the carcass. If they thoroughly clean all equipment which comes into contact with domestic or wild animals, then they will not transmit the disease.
“It is believed that humans are responsible for 95 per cent of the transmission of the disease. Those who hunt and shoot throughout Europe are seven million pairs of eyes and ears for signs of the disease, but each individual must take responsibility.
“Just because the UK is an island, there are still implications for those who hunt and shoot. The disease does not respect borders and it is important for anyone travelling to infected areas to play their part to prevent its spread to parts of Europe that may currently be clear of the disease.”
Torsten Morner, of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation, said: “The hunting and shooting community must work together to defeat the disease.
“Hunting tourism, as well as the free movement of people and food goods within the EU, creates a lot of difficulties in efforts to control African Swine Fever. We are happy that the EU has recognised the importance of the hunting community in helping to eradicate this disease.”