South Korea culls animals on huge scale in response to foot-and-mouth disease, avian flu outbreaks


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South Korea’s ongoing epidemics of foot-and-mouth disease and avian flu have led the country’s government to call for the culling of animals -- pigs and cows because of foot-and-mouth, chickens and ducks because of avian flu, as well as smaller numbers of other animals like goats -- on an enormous scale.

Reports list the number of slaughtered pigs at well over a million; the total number of all animals killed seems to be several million and growing. Worse still, a large percentage of those -- representing virtually all the culled pigs, according to the group Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) -- were buried alive, in part because the country doesn’t have enough euthanasia drugs to go around and a large dose is required to kill a pig.


The situation has also led to nightmarish reports about water quality in the affected regions.

According to the Guardian, nearly 70,000 soldiers have been tasked with helping regional forces conduct the livestock culls. Many of the killed animals appeared to be healthy, but came from farms in close proximity to confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth.

One bright spot is that the country, which began to vaccinate large numbers of cows against the disease last month, has recently begun to vaccinate pigs as well. But, KARA cautioned in a statement on its website, ‘mass vaccination does not include piglets. It is likely that pigs will remain the least protected animals’ from the dangers of foot-and-mouth.

Lee Won-bak, president of the Korea Assn. for Animal Protection (KAAP), described the ‘horrible, nightmarish’ experience of watching the culls in an interview with the Korea Times. KAAP and other groups have ‘demanded the government to stop the live burial of animals since 2000 when [foot-and-mouth disease] first broke out here,’ Lee said. ‘But it has been totally ignored. The biggest problem is that the government has no will whatsoever to correct that.’

In a post on its blog, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urged supporters to state their opposition to the live-animal burials in emails to Han Duk-soo, South Korea’s ambassador to the U.S.

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-- Lindsay Barnett