Children cry watching the TV news as a dozen piglets and their mother are shown being dumped into a hole in a farm in a foot and mouth disease-infected area. Internet users are saddened to read the diary of a young man in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, who had to kill and bury 121 cattle because a truck that visited his farm the day before was found to have earlier stayed in a confirmed FMD-infected place.
Some 2 million cattle and pigs ― about 12 percent of total cloven-footed animals in livestock farms across the country ― have been culled since the outbreak of the animal disease was first reported in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province on Nov. 29. A Cabinet meeting yesterday approved the use of an additional 546 billion won ($490 million) for the compensation of livestock farmers and vaccination of cows and pigs. Another 438 billion won was released in December.
While there was no report of new outbreaks these past few days, protests are heard from domestic and international animal protection groups over the live burials of animals by Korean officials desperately fighting the disease. Some bloggers and Facebook users in North America and Europe have started petitions to boycott Korean products in protest against what they call a “barbaric” activity.
Officials admit that most of pigs in the infected areas or in their vicinity are buried alive because of the shortage of euthanizing drugs. Pigs need larger doses because of their large amount of fat. But they violated the law on animal epidemics as well as the guideline on animal killing for disease control given by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
We accept local officials’ explanation that speedy disposal of those animals was necessary to protect other animals in the still safe areas as the FMD scare spread rapidly across the country. Yet, we have to ask them if they did their best to minimize the emotional impact from the large-scale culling. More emphasis should now be given to vaccination.