Apriadi Gunawan, Medan, North Sumatra – Hundreds of Batak people in North Sumatra have kick started a campaign to protest a proposed plan to cull domesticated pigs across the province following the sudden deaths of thousands of pigs from the recent African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in the region.
The campaign, dubbed "Save Babi" or Save Pigs, was spearheaded by pig breeders, owners of restaurants that serve pork-based dishes and various other parties, as well as members of the public in the region. They all urged North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi not to go forward with the plan.
Save Pigs campaign secretary Toman Purba said many Batak people at home and abroad had expressed concern over the administration's plan.
"Batak people living in Australia, the United States, Hong Kong and England support the Save Pigs movement. They're all opposed to the culling of pigs," Toman said on the sidelines of an event in Medan on Tuesday.
He said Batak people would stage a massive rally in front of the governor's office to protest the plan sometime in February.
In response, Edy said the administration would not go forward with the plan because of the negative impact it would have on the livelihoods of pig breeders.
"If we actually slaughtered the pigs, what would become of pig breeders in North Sumatra? There are over 2 million pigs across the province, each worth around Rp 2 million [US$146.41]," he said.
He added that the administration was considering several alternative plans to address the ASF outbreak, such as centralizing pig breeding in an area that had not been exposed to the ASF virus.
"Pig breeding will take place exclusively in a specific region that has no history of infection," Edy said.
RS Parhusip, a professor at the University of North Sumatra, said he had proposed an alternative plan for curing infections caused by the ASF virus to the veterinarians tasked with stemming the outbreak. However, his plan had not been considered, he said.
"I explained to them that the cure was very simple – it's sold at community health centers and various drug stores. But they never listened to me," Parhusip told scores of Batak people during a meeting organized by the Save Pigs movement.
He recommended that the pigs be treated with the antibiotics levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin.
North Sumatra Food Security and Animal Husbandry Agency head Azhar Harahap said the administration would not go forward with the planned cull as it would violate Government Regulation No. 29/2012 on the welfare of animals and animal breeders, as well as the principles upheld by the World Organization for Animal Health.
"Above all, such a plan would certainly harm the livelihoods of pig breeders. This is the most crucial point to consider," Azhar said.
He said the administration had taken steps to prevent any future outbreaks, such as stepping up biosecurity measures by making it mandatory for pig breeders to clean pig enclosures with standardized disinfectants.
Other measures entail stricter supervision of the transportation of pigs between villages, districts, regencies, cities and provinces, as well as the enforcement of quarantine procedures to prevent pigs being brought into our out of North Sumatra, he said.
"According to our records, 302 pigs succumb to the virus in North Sumatra each day, which is relatively low compared to the death toll in other countries that are also dealing with an ASF outbreak," Azhar said.
The first ASF outbreak occurred in China in 2018, he explained. The virus later spread to Hong Kong, the Philippines and Timor Leste, he added. The outbreak in North Sumatra began in October of last year, Azhar said.
"The virus arrived in North Sumatra from other countries. It did not originate domestically and the only outbreak in Indonesia has occurred in North Sumatra," he said.
Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo announced in a statement on Dec. 12 last year that cases of ASF had been recorded in 16 regions across North Sumatra. (rfa)