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Bill provides minister greater flexibility

Bill provides minister greater flexibility
Dr Shantal Munro-Knight. (FILE)

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The Animal (Diseases and Importation) (Amendment) Bill, 2022 allows the country to be prepared to deal with viral diseases such as the African Swine Fever, by giving the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Security the necessary flexibility to add diseases as they arise and to protect the country as needed.

The legislation, which was passed in the Upper Chamber Wednesday afternoon, “essentially makes provision for the minister by order to amend the schedule and makes provision for a schedule”, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Senator Dr Shantal Munro-Knight who introduced it.

Making it clear the “extremely highly infectious” disease, which was a “severe viral disease of pigs”, was not in Barbados and could not be transferred to humans, she said that as part of any preparation farmers would be sensitised about best standards that must be implemented to ensure the diseases did not come here.

“The disease causes severe illness and high death rates up to 100 per cent mortality, and all ages of pigs are affected. There is no vaccine or treatment and when infected, pigs can carry the viral illness for several months. So that the only way we can attempt to deal with this is to slaughter the pigs.

“For instance, in the Dominican Republic, 74 000 pigs nationwide had to be slaughtered as part of the contingency plan, … not that these pigs were infected but they had to be slaughtered … for virus eradication and the government then had to spend again money they had not planned for, over 350 million pesos in order to address the outfall from this disease,” she said.

Munro-Knight asked those in the Upper House if they could imagine the impact of the viral disease on those in Barbados whose livelihood depended on the pork industry which would be decimated, as well as how pork lovers would feel.

“What we are essentially talking about is loss of jobs for people, loss of livelihoods, loss of an entire industry. You could imagine having to slaughter the entire, the entire, pig sector in Barbados on the basis of this disease?

“So that while, Mr. President, we are caught up with COVID-19 as we rightly should as a disease that affects humans and it’s extremely important in terms of its impact on our population, I believe we have to be equally concerned with diseases like the African Swine Fever and others that affect animals because they have broader socio-economic impacts.

“It’s not just the animal but that there is an interdependence between us as humans and animals and not only in the context of food like I said they provide, but again the broader socio-economic context,” she said. (GBM)