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"African Swine Fever spreads due to hunting"

The spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is most probably related to hunting of infected wild boars in both Belarus and Russia.

That was the message of Bernard Van Goethem, the European Commission's director for Health & Consumer Protection, during a meeting of the European Parliament.

In addition, the Commission has proved inclined to partly compensate culled animals in the fight against ASF. Many members of European Parliament (MEPs) feel that the Commission is not doing what it takes to fight the virus. Polish MEP Janusz Wojciechowski said: "Measures taken simply are not sufficient."

The Lithuanian MEP Bronis Rope said: "Farms have been cleansed but no compensation was provided. The Lithuanian veterinary service has put forward a range of proposals, but no compensation came their way.

Dutch MEPs Annie Schreijer-Pierik and Jan Huitema however, pointed to the need to find a vaccine against ASF.

Not justified

The European Commission, however, feels all criticism is not justified. Van Goethem said, Never we have been more on top of combatting a disease as we do now. There are checks every week in the area."

He emphasised that the best method is to let the wild boars die of the disease in the place where they are. He added, "This is five times more efficient than shooting them. Hunting them makes them run, and they will infect others as a result. This will lead to a quicker spreading of the virus. So it's better to manage the population in the location where they are."

The Commission has dismissed criticism with regard to a lack of compensation. In 2013, the Commission spent €2.5 million and this year even €3.5 million is available for the four affected member states.

With the virus present within the EU, a further adaptation of the policy is required. Van Goethem commented, "We are happy to increase the financial support. In addition, we can compensate for 30% of the culled pigs."

Van Goethem said he expects a vaccine against ASF will become available in due course. He said, "There has been ongoing research for the last 20 years, I'm confident a vaccine will become available."

Where exactly has African Swine Fever broken out in the European Union? Check this map to know the latest.

Mariska Vermaas

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