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Greens urge inquiry into pig wasting disease

20 November, 2003
Greens urge inquiry into pig wasting disease

Green MP Ian Ewen-Street is calling for an urgent inquiry into the pig industry, in the wake of the outbreak of the incurable pig wasting disease PMWS that could be as devastating as Foot and Mouth disease.

New Zealand's entire agriculture industry was threatened by PMWS, post-weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome, as it - and MAF's inadequate response - undermined our reputation as a producer of disease-free meat, said Mr Ewen-Street, the Green spokesperson for Agriculture.

"A select committee inquiry must be launched immediately to investigate why we're faced with a dangerous risk to the pork industry that could be as serious a threat as Foot and Mouth disease is to cattle," said Mr Ewen-Street.

"I have doubts that the conditions found on pig farms would do much to halt the spread of viral diseases such as PMWS so an inquiry is necessary to find out what the industry can do to prevent an outbreak of this significance occurring again."

Mr Ewen-Street said the inquiry should be wide-ranging, giving special attention to:

* How PMWS entered the country, how widespread it is and what consequences the pork industry must now suffer.

* The unnecessary transport of pigs, which often live on several farms before heading to the abattoir.

* The conditions on factory farms, where pigs experience cramped and unsanitary conditions.

* The importation of frozen carcasses from countries known to have the disease.

* The quality of the response by MAF who made little effort to eradicate the fatal syndrome.

"The best way to stop the disease from spreading is to stop moving livestock from farm to farm to farm," said Mr Ewen-Street. "To hell with competition in the meat-processing industry, pigs must not be moved from the region they're raised in. It just isn't worth it for the risk to the industry that now exists.

"The conditions found in factory farms simply provide a breeding ground for all manner of viral diseases and infections. The pigs are stressed, unhealthy and unable to combat these infections."

Mr Ewen-Street said the Minister of Agriculture must accept responsibility for the outbreak. "It's an oxymoron for a Minister to try keeping the borders closed to biosecurity threats yet continue to throw the gates open to all-comers in the name of free-trade.

"The Minister must direct MAF to take all steps practical to halt the spread of this disease. So far MAF's response has been pathetic - why have MAF made so little effort to eradicate this serious threat to New Zealand agriculture now that it has arrived?"

ENDS

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