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Why meat is off the table for pigs

By Linda Searle
District Veterinarian 
26 February 2019

Pig at a feederAustralian farmers are battlers. They have faced drought and flood, pestilence and disease - wouldn’t it be great to help protect this resilient bunch from more heartache?

Fortunately, there are some diseases that are exotic to Australia which our farmers have not had to deal with, and we need to keep it that way.

The risk of foot and mouth disease (FMD), or swine fevers such as African swine fever (ASF) and classical swine fever (CSF) entering this country is becoming higher. A recent testing of pork products seized and surrendered at the national border from passengers and incoming mail has found the presence of both ASF and FMD. This was the second time that this contraband was tested, and it showed that the rate of ASF-contaminated product found had increased dramatically, with 40 samples from 283 testing positive.

This is extremely concerning, as the most likely way that these diseases would enter the country is through pigs being fed the virus in contaminated food. The risk is so dire that in Australia we have always had a two-tiered approach to protect us from these diseases: we restrict the importation of potentially contaminated products, and we prohibit feeding meat or other suspected foodstuffs to pigs.

If you are responsible for feeding pigs, whether they are a pet, a small backyard sideline or a large commercial farm, you need to be more vigilant than ever. Do not feed them bakery goods containing meat, like pies, sausage rolls or cheese and bacon rolls, or scraps that contain or have been in contact with meat.

Your pigs can be fed Australian milk and milk products or those legally imported for stock feed, along with eggs, commercial pig food made from meat, blood or bone meal, non-meat bakery goods, fruit, vegetables and cereals.

Even people who don’t deal directly with pigs still have a role to play.

Get informed – learn about the risk of bringing back disease when travelling overseas or hosting visitors who have recently returned from abroad. Think about how you handle food waste. Reducing food waste is important, but you need to consider all of the impacts. It makes no difference if this is on a domestic or industrial scale. We need to stop the possibility of viruses being consumed by pigs.

Help spread the message – you might know someone with a pig or who is about to go overseas. If we all do our part to ensure everyone is informed maybe we can change behavior and reduce the risk. These rules aren’t in place to make life difficult, they are in place to protect our country from the devastating impacts these diseases could have.

Everyone has the chance to protect our country from disease. For more information please contact your nearest Local Land Services office on 1300 795 299.