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Spinning dead wild boars

To me the apparent openness of the Polish and Lithuanian veterinary authorities regarding the African Swine Fever outbreaks gives their reports a great deal of credibility.

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. I came across this phrase this week in an article trying to explain the situation in Eastern Ukraine and Russia.

When talking about these current political tensions, as most may know, nothing is what it seems. What is the will of the people in Eastern Ukraine? Which military forces exactly do we see on television?

When it comes down to African Swine Fever (ASF) in Russia, a similar level of unclarity exists. With every ASF outbreak, data are being sent to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and that is about as far as it goes. The Russian veterinary watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor usually publishes some information online as well. We can publish a short news item about so and so many pigs being culled in a village due to ASF or a certain number of wild boars were found dead in a hunting ground and diagnosed to be suffering from ASF.

Only recently I've come to realise how little information that is.

In late January, African Swine Fever entered the European Union as well. First it was discovered in two wild boars in Lithuania; then in the first half of February two were found in Poland. As bad as it is to the Polish and Lithuanian markets, from the perspective of information supply the discoveries were something positive. The outbreaks have been discussed by veterinarians in the European Union's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, and whatever is discussed is shared publicly.

The exact location of the discoveries are being pointed out meticulously. It is possible to see pictures where the wild boars were found. It is described who found them and what happened. Lithuania explains what its wild boar surveillance programme entails. Poland highlights in detail its veterinary regionalisation programme in Eastern Poland.

And all in clear, understandable and perfect English.

Although I must admit that I do not know the area in person and that I have never been to Lithuania myself, the apparent openness of the Polish and Lithuanian veterinary authorities to me gives their reports a great deal of credibility.

Not to Russia though. This week, Rosselkhoznadzor quotes Polish media about dead wild boars, allegedly found in the Obra river in Western Poland, in early May. 

On its own website, the Russian veterinary watchdog describes clinical signs of ASF in wild boars, understands laboratory diagnosis is being conducted which could also point to Classical Swine Fever, and closes off saying; "The Rosselkhoznadzor has to state that it learns about dead wild boars from mass media and not from the Polish Veterinary Service."

Nowhere is it written that ASF or CSF was found in Poland, but implicitly the suggestion is being made some information might be covered up. Well, thanks for sharing, but I'm not convinced.

To enhance the credibility of this statement, I think it would help enormously if the Russian watchdog would also publish pictures and meticulously describe of ASF-affected livestock in their own country, if only for editorial purposes!

Until that time, it may look like ASF, swim like ASF, and quack like ASF – but until proof reaches me, they are just a couple of unfortunate dead wild boars dragged up from a river.

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