Italy bans hunting in regions hit by swine fever

A pig farmer takes care of his animals in his farm on Jan 25, 2018 in Villafalletto, near Cuneo, northwestern Italy. (MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP)

ROME – Italy on Thursday banned hunting and several other outdoor activities in two northern regions affected by a recent outbreak of African swine fever, a deadly hog disease.

African swine fever is harmless to humans but often fatal to pigs, leading to financial losses for farmers. It originated in Africa before spreading to Europe and Asia and has killed hundreds of millions of pigs worldwide.

An order signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza and Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli, affects 114 rural areas in the north-western regions of Piedmont and Liguria, where four wild boars were found to carry the disease

An order signed by Health Minister Roberto Speranza and Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli, affects 114 rural areas in the north-western regions of Piedmont and Liguria, where four wild boars were found to carry the disease.

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As well as the ban on hunting, it will also be forbidden to gather mushrooms and truffles, to fish, hike, cycle in the areas "and do any other activity (involving) direct or indirect contact with infected boars," says the order released by the ministers.

In an exception to the broad hunting ban, targeted hunting of wild boar will still be allowed in an effort to control their numbers and monitor the spread of swine fever.

The discovery of the disease in Italy could be a blow to its meat producers as governments often block imports of pork products from countries where the disease has been found as a way to prevent transmission.

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The order, which takes immediate effect and will run for six months, "will allow our production activities to continue to operate safely, providing reassurances regarding our exports," the ministers said.

Last year, Haiti and the Dominican Republic confirmed the first outbreaks in the Americas in nearly 40 years.

China and other pork buyers banned imports of German pork in September 2020 after the first case was confirmed in wild animals in Germany.