It’s like something out of a movie: Korea deploys snipers and drones to its borders to stop the infected from entering and spreading a disease that alarmed scientists estimate will wipe out fully one quarter of the global population… of pigs.
African swine fever is threatening the world’s protein supply, in what the World Organization for Animal Health’s president tells the AP is “the biggest threat to any commercial livestock of our generation.”
The disease has been found in North Korean wild boars, and it’s possible that there is currently a major pork shortage inside the Hermit Kingdom. So the South Koreans are beefing up their border presence in an effort to stop the animals from crossing the DMZ and infecting their own pork supply.
As bad as things are on the Korean peninsula, China has been hit the hardest so far. The country is far and away the world’s largest pork producer and consumer, and has culled almost two million pigs already, driving up global pork prices.
There is no cure for the virus, so killing infected animals is the only way to stop or slow the spread.
Right now, the outbreak’s main impact on Americans will be felt in slightly elevated meat prices, and economically in the drop in soybean exports (pigs are fed soybeans, so fewer pigs means less soybean demand).
Things could change if the virus hits the US, though. US agriculture has been preparing for that possibility for a while, and if it happens it will devastate some farming communities economically.
- Quarter of world’s pig population ‘to die due to African swine fever’, The Guardian
- Scientists say quarter of all pigs could die of swine fever, Associated Press
- South Korea deploys snipers and drones to fend off deadly pig virus, Nature
- Pig Plague Starts Rippling Through American Meat Markets, Bloomberg
- State agencies, veterinarians preparing for potential outbreak of African Swine Fever, Oklahoma’s News 4