Hundreds of people who refer to themselves the #SaveBabi (Save Pigs) movement staged a peaceful protest in front of the North Sumatra Regional Representative Council (DPRD) building in Medan yesterday to reject reported plans to cull pigs following tens of thousands pig deaths caused by the African swine fever (ASF) in the province.
According to reports, plans of mass pigs culling first emerged following the outbreak of ASF and Hog Cholera in North Sumatra, allegedly put forward by North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi in a statement last month.
There have been more than 46,000 pig deaths due to the viral diseases since September of last year, as reported by North Sumatra’s Food Security and Livestock Agency.
“If the pigs are culled, it means that [the provincial government] is removing the Batak culture. Because from our birth to death, pigs have become a part of culture on the land of Batak,” Save Babi movement leader Boasa Simanjuntak said during the protest, as quoted by Kumparan.
“The Indonesian Government must determine the case of swine virus as a disaster, which means there should be compensation for losses,” Boasa added.
The protest also saw the #SaveBabi movement declaring the day “Pig Sovereignty Day.” Many women were reportedly in attendance, as they urged representatives not to cull the pigs, highlighting how most of them rely on pig farming for their livelihoods.
“From pigs, many have gone on to become generals, professors. Pigs have also funded many campaigns for legislative representatives,” Boasa said, as quoted by Tempo.
Edy has responded to the protest, saying that any grievances should not be directed at the provincial government since reports about a planned mass culling of pigs in North Sumatra misrepresented the government’s actual plans to handle the crisis.
“Who even wants to cull the pigs?” Edy told reporters yesterday, as quoted by Kumparan.
Edy added that the North Sumatra government has been working to prevent the spread of the virus, noting that there are no available vaccines for both diseases.
“Our only way is to carry out preventive measures by cleaning [pig farms]. Secondly, pigs infected with Hog Cholera should be culled because we haven’t found the medication. We forbid the public from making careless disposal of dead pigs,” Edy said.
Azhar Harahap, North Sumatra Food Security and Livestock Agency, denied rumors of the governor planning to carry out mass a pig culling in an official statement issued on Jan. 20.
“There was no statement from the governor about stamping out [the outbreak by mass extermination], it was said by irresponsible people who wanted to worry the public,” Azhar said.
According to Azhar, mass pig culling is against an existing Government Regulation on Veterinary Public Health and Animal Welfare, noting that it should only be done if the animals are infected with zoonotic diseases or infectious diseases that are spread between animals and humans, in order to stop the spread of the virus immediately.
Azhar said the provincial government has so far attempted to suppress the disease spread by halting the issuance of animal health certificates to temporarily curb swine distribution from North Sumatra, establishing quick response posts in various areas, as well as educating pig farmers.