South Korean religious activists gathered today to voice their criticism at the government for burying pigs and other animals alive in the country's worst outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), press agency Xinhua reports.
Approximately 35 religious groups from Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Cheondo Religion and Won-Buddhist organisations held a press conference in central Seoul, calling for improvement in the way the government treats animals under the pretext of quarantine efforts against FMD.
In a joint message they said: "Burying animals alive is an inhumane act, and the burial alone would not stop the spread of FMD unless environments for livestock farming see some improvements."
They also showed a video clip that pictured about 1,900 pigs being buried alive at a site in Gyeonggi Province near the country’s capital. Some participants cried while watching the video.
The animals – mostly pigs – have been put to death in an attempt to halt the FMD outbreak, which started in November 2010.
The outbreak, the fifth in South Korea since 2000, has led to the slaughter of more than 3.39 million animals, with losses estimated to be over 2 trillion won (US$1.8 billion).
According to domestic quarantine rules, animals must be killed before being buried in a 4-5 m pit lined with two layers of plastic sheeting. However, the animals – mainly pigs – were frequently buried alive under the pressure of events.
Farm animals were buried at more than 4,000 sites across the country, often in easily accessible spots, for instance beside rivers. The outbreak of FMD is cautiously believed to show some signs of mitigating as no confirmed cases have been reported in more than 20 days, but the country now grapples with another problem closely related to public health.
As temperatures rise in the spring, the corpses will start to decay. Rainfall leaching through the holes could foul ground water supplies.
Environment minister Lee Maan-ee warned that ‘an unprecedented environmental disaster’ could come due to the burial of the carcasses. In order to prevent the crisis, the Ministry of Environment said it would check all burial sites for safety by the end of April and shore up defective ones.
The religious groups, meanwhile, said they will hold a memorial service for the dead animals next week in Seoul.