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Vaccination - a glimmer of hope in South Korea?

News Section Icon Published 02/02/2011

Compassion in World Farming was horrified to hear reports of the live burial of pigs in South Korea in response to foot and mouth disease (FMD). Our supporters and other animal groups are writing to officials urging them to ensure that only humane killing methods are used, if emergency killing is deemed necessary in attempts to control the spread of the disease.

The ensuing public outrage seems to have had some effect on the government in South Korea. The country's Embassies across Europe have admitted that in the haste to try and end the foot and mouth epidemic, some animals may have suffered and said that the government would ensure that all animals were destroyed humanely in line with World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) Guidelines on the Killing of Animals for Disease Control Purposes. Live burial is clearly in breach of this and as a member of the OIE, South Korea is obliged to adhere to these guidelines.

Compassion also welcomes the recent call from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) that: "when responding to outbreaks, countries should adhere to accepted practices that adequately take animal welfare and environmental impacts into account."

The government of South Korea has also had a change of heart on vaccination and the Yonhap News Agency reported that henceforth, all livestock would be vaccinated.

Trade rules are designed so that, if a government vaccinates against FMD, this has economic consequences for their country's trade in animals or animal products. This is why killing of farm animals on a massive scale, instead of vaccination, has often been the knee-jerk reaction of national governments when the disease occurs. But large scale killing of farm animals in a panicked way is inevitably a disaster for animal welfare.

Compassion believes that the more humane and modern way for the world to deal with FMD is 'vaccination-to-live', where countries vaccinate on a preventative basis.

The latest reported culling figures due to FMD in South Korea are nearly 3 million animals (KARA).

In addition, because of avian flu, Korean Animals Rights Advocates (KARA) report that 5.4 million chickens and ducks have been killed. It is imperative that only humane and swift killing methods are used, if the decision is taken to kill animals as a disease control measure.

This was sent to us from colleagues in South Korea, about an experience during the FMD cull:

"A report from Hoengseong, Gangwon Province is making the whole nation cry. When a mother cow was dying (actually suffering) after injection of succinylcholine, her new-born calf approached her and cried for milk. Anyway the calf was to be killed, too. Then, the operators could not believe what they were seeing. The mother cow suckled her baby while trembling and trying to sustain for 2-3 minutes. Only after the baby was finished, the mother cow fell down while the baby, not knowing what is happening, was hovering around the still body of its mother. Later, the calf was killed, too, and was buried beside its mother. This report helped political parties strengthen their statements to show their compunction. Many citizens are touched..."

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