An empty farm is seen, Monday, in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province which was hit by foot-and-mouth disease. / Korea Times photo by Kang Seung-woo
By Kang Seung-woo
GOYANG, Gyeonggi Province — The atmosphere at the situation room set up to combat the spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) at the Goyang Agriculture Technology Center was tense.
About 50 public servants working at the time of this reporter’s visit looked tired from days of working in shifts on a 24-hour watch. The first FMD case in this area was reported on Dec.19.
All visitors are required to pass an ultraviolet sanitation system that looked like a public telephone booth on the way to the briefing room, located on the second floor of the building.
A map on the wall was dotted — indicating all the locations of reported outbreaks and the farmswhere pigs and cows are to be slaughtered. By the number of dots, the fight against the disease that fatally hits pigs and cows appeared to be reaching another peak.
While additional FMD outbreaks were being confirmed in Incheon and Cheongsong in North Gyeongsang Province and Yangpyeong in Gyeonggi Province, Monday, Goyang City was carrying out the slaughter of livestock as a precautionary measure.
“We are entering the final stage after most of the animals have been killed and buried,” an official told The Korea Times. “Today, we plan an additional cull to prevent any further spread of the disease.”
After the first case was confirmed on Nov. 29 in North Gyeongsang Province, the disease has spread to Gyeonggi and Gangwon Provinces and even to the city of Incheon, with a total of 56 cases confirmed and more than 443,000 animals ordered destroyed. There have been several other confirmed cases of the disease from animals that have already been culled, which are not counted in the total. As of Tuesday, the outbreak had been reported in five provinces and cities.
Passage to a farm where a slaughter is in progress is off limits. But it was not hard to see quarantine workers in white overalls spraying passing vehicles.
As this reporter drove around the affected area, a farm or what was left of it was barren. It was deserted with nothing but three empty cowsheds with yellow tape surrounding it.
FMD is highly contagious and affects all cloven-hoofed animals, such as cattle, pigs, deer, goats and buffalo, although it is harmless to humans. It is classified as a “List A” disease by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, with countries that report outbreaks barred from exporting meat.
According to the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ quarantine guidelines, cows and other livestock within a 500-meter radius of an affected area are to be slaughtered.
As a result, a large number of animals have been killed and buried, but due to the lack of manpower and equipment, some pigs are even buried alive.
“It is illegal to bury animals alive. A regulation on slaughter stipulates that after killing animals by electric shock, medication or a severe blow, they should be buried,” an animal rights activist told The Korea Times. “Although they are animals, we need to consider their right to die without pain.”
The government decided to include FMD as a natural disaster in the Cabinet meeting presided over by President Lee Myung-bak Tuesday. The designation will make more resources available for fighting this animal disease.