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Organisation of on-farm killing for disease control purposes

An outbreak of infectious disease can be a stressful and potentially confusing time for all involved. Therefore, it is advisable for contingency plans to be prepared before such an outbreak occurs. As mentioned above, National Disease Control/Contingency Plans are required in EU member states prior to a disease outbreak. Having these plans established allows for appropriate coordinated action to be taken immediately. It is also good practice to have local and farm-level plans in place before a disease outbreak is confirmed. It is possible the exact strategies may need to be adjusted to meet the needs of a specific situation, so flexibility is important. However, giving plans thought and consideration during a disease-free period is invaluable.

Disease Control Plans, also known as Contingency Plans, must be developed in accordance with EU Regulations 1099/2009. These are to be written by government bodies and relevant stakeholders prior to an outbreak of notifiable disease. These plans should be reviewed annually and, if a disease outbreak is confirmed, these plans may be modified and should be in place at national level and contain details of management structure, disease control strategies and operational procedures. The welfare of the affected animals throughout the process, including the potential welfare issues arising due to animal movement controls, should be carefully considered and addressed within these plans. The plans should also include a strategy to ensure an adequate number of personnel, who are competent in the humane killing of animals, are available on site.

Local Level Control Plans (in the UK these cover regions) are based upon national plans but include specific knowledge of the local area. These plans are developed through engagements between the competent authority (APHA in the UK) and local partners and stakeholders.

At the farm-level, a Killing Plan is devised by the appointed Incident Commander (IC). The role and responsibilities of the IC are listed later in this document. The farmer, possibly with the help of a vet or the IC, should devise a Biosecurity Plan, details of which are listed later in this section and can be found in the disease control document produced by the OIE.  It is crucial that those developing the plans are mindful of overall communications and take into account the emotional aspects of the task for the owners of the animals, the emergency response staff and the wider community. Members of the general public are not generally accustomed to such practices and care should be taken to prevent any distress caused by people overlooking the killing or carcase-disposal site. Those assisting as part of the emergency response staff may also be unfamiliar with such procedures and the psychological impact of a large-scale cull should be appreciated. Figure 1 below provides an example of the organisation implemented within the UK.

In addition, it is important for those working on farms to create their own farm-level contingency plan to help them continue daily operations if movement restrictions are imposed, e.g. delivery access, transfer of people, animals and supplies between holdings, etc.

Figure 1: Illustration of UK organisation required during an outbreak of notifiable disease. Includes plans made at national, regional and farm-levels. Some information from OIE (2013) Terrestrial Health Code. Chapter 7.6 Killing of Animals for Disease Control Purposes.

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