Several hundreds of pigs have been culled in the Brest region of Belarus, following an outbreak of disease among animals in the villages of Golevichi and Omnevichi.
Veterinary services have told farmers the disease is trichinosis, but farmers and experts have said they suspect it is actually an outbreak African swine fever (ASF), which the authorities are trying to conceal.
“The two families in our village together own one single barn. One day, one pig there suddenly died, and the next day another one died. There were no particular symptoms: in the evening, everything was fine, and the next morning we found animal dead. Authorities took the pig for testing, and the next day came and took away all the pigs in the village. We were told that the pigs were infected with trichinosis,” said an unnamed farmer from the village of Omnevichi.
Veterinary services have paid compensation for the pigs based on the market price of BYR23,000 (US$2.65) per kilogram in carcase weight. Authorities have allegedly advised farmers not to buy pigs in the coming year and not to disclose what happened.
A similar situation occurred in the neighbouring village of Baranovichi. A veterinary specialist, who asked to remain anonymous, said the dead animals were being burnt, which is not the method usually used for outbreaks of trichinosis.
“It is most likely that the veterinary inspectors are struggling with some other disease, probably with some virus that can be transmitted from a population of wild boar to domestic pigs through the air,” he suggested.
At the same time, hunters said that large numbers of wild boars in the area have also been dying. According to one local hunter, a dozen dead boars were recently found near the village of Omnevichi. In total, 160 boars were shot last month, again something that has never been done to stop trichinosis.
“It could not be trichinosis – one dead wild boar I’ve found has enlarged lymph nodes and a blackened spleen. These are symptoms of African swine fever,” said a local hunter.
Experts have warned that if ASF were found in Belarus, the country would lose access to all of its pork export markets, as its main trading partners, including neighbouring Russia and Kazakhstan, would immediately ban imports. This, in turn, would result great losses to the local pig industry.