Dáil Éireann - Volume 387 - 28 February, 1989

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Aujeszky's Disease.

9. Mrs. Doyle asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food, in view of the fact that Aujeszky's disease in pigs has been eradicated wholly from Denmark and partially from the United Kingdom and a national Aujeszky's disease eradication programme has recently been introduced [1595] in Holland, and in view of the fact that Aujeszky's disease is costly and that our future exports market for pigs and pigmeat could be affected if our European neighbours eradicate it, his Department's policy on Aujeszky's disease eradication in Ireland.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy): When Aujeszky's disease emerged as a significant problem in pig production some years ago, my Department permitted the importation of an inactivated vaccine as a control measure. This vaccine has been widely used in pig herds here and vaccination has had the effect of limiting the effects of the disease. A new vaccine has very recently come on the market which has the advantage that it is now possible, on the basis of tests, to distinguish between the actual disease and vaccine virus. I have recently issued licences for the importation of this new vaccine, which could be a useful aid to producers in eradicating the disease.

I am conscious of developments in other EC member states, but as there is no evidence that the disease is transmitted in meat, trade in pigmeat is not at risk. Developments in relation to this disease at EC level and elsewhere will continue to be closely monitored.

Mrs. Doyle: I thank the Minister for his reply. However, according to the FAO and the World Health Organisation there is no evidence that natural hormone implants in beef cause any problems in humans but consumer demand insists that we produce hormone-free beef. I am worried whether in relation to Aujeszky's disease and our pigmeat exports in the future, consumer demand will insist on Aujeszky-free pigmeat. I am sure the Minister will agree that we need to increase our pigmeat exports to ensure a future for our producers and processors. Will the Minister assure me that he is contemplating a compulsory vaccination programme to bring us in line with our main competitors in Europe in relation to pigmeat production?

[1596] Mr. O'Kennedy: I appreciate and share the Deputy's concern that our exports in this area are perceived to be what they are — free from contamination by Aujeszky's disease. The reassuring fact is that the disease is not carried in meat and there is no trace of any meat being affected by this disease.

Mrs. Doyle: There is no trace of hormones either.

Mr. O'Kennedy: A characteristic of this disease is that it is not carried in meat.

Mrs. Doyle: I accept that.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Of course the disease can be activated in the live animal and for that reason can affect the breeding and reproductive capacity of the animal. In that connection I want to assure the Deputy that the disease can be controlled by vaccination. As recently as January 1989 we revised our licensing arrangements to provide for the importation and distribution of new G. 1 deletion marker vaccines which enable laboratory tests to distinguish between field virus and vaccine virus. While we do not have the capacity or personnel to have a slaughtering policy, I assure the Deputy that if there is any trace or suspicion of this disease in animals, our present strict regulations will be even more strict.

Mrs. Doyle: I thank the Minister for his response. As consumer demand will be the dictating factor in future in terms of acceptability of our products, particularly our agri-food products, will the Minister give serious consideration to stablishing a herd register of pigs — which I understand will have to come under EC regulations — and follow it up with an official vaccination programme, with planned culling by surveillance through the slaughter houses, of Aujeszky's disease? Will the Minister give an assurance that he will bring us in line with the Dutch, Danes and, indeed Britain, in relation to this disease?

[1597] Mr. O'Kennedy: I do not wish to comment on the countries mentioned by the Deputy but the incidence of the disease in those countries has been very much higher than ours. In all pig-related diseases we have the highest possible standards in terms of outbreak. Therefore, it is not a question of bringing ourselves into line with the countries mentioned. If we were to embark on an eradication scheme such as the ones applying in some of the countries referred to, there would have to be an extensive survey of the whole country to establish the level of clinical disease as well as that of inapparent infection and the presence of AD virus in animals but not giving rise to clinical systems of the disease. As the Deputy will appreciate, such a survey would require enormous resources.

Mrs. Doyle: No, it could be done through the slaughterhouses. The veterinary fee is 75p per pig and the producers could get a return on that money.

An Ceann Comhairle: I wish to advise the House that a time factor is involved in dealing with Priority Questions and I want to move on to another one.

Mr. O'Kennedy: I will make a final comment. I am conscious of the point made in regard to the herd register of pigs but, as the Deputy has raised the question, I am glad to reassure her that there is no trace of this disease in our pigs.