Botswana has announced it will cull more than 10,000 cattle in the country’s northeast in a bid to fight an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. One of Africa’s largest beef producers, Botswana was forced in August to halt beef exports over the virus, including to the lucrative European Union.
Assistant Minister for Agriculture Molebatsi Molebatsi said the decision to kill affected livestock was taken following consultations with disease control experts.
“The decision to depopulate is the one we have taken,” Molebatsi said. “We took the decision after consultation with experts. We don’t want any traces of the virus to remain or to have any further viral circulation.”
Molebatsi said 19,000 cattle are in the affected zone, which is near the Zimbabwe border, and more than 10,000 will be slaughtered. Some goats and sheep will also be culled.
Veterinarian Mbatshi Mazwinduma said culling means farmers must be compensated.
“It comes at a great cost because it means people have to be compensated,” Mazwinduma said. “And there is also environmental issues of animals that have been slaughtered … on how do you dispose of them safely.”
Mazwinduma said in disease control, there should be certain considerations, particularly for the affected farmers.
“When you are trying to control the disease, you have to consider the economic, social and often political impact. Politically speaking, remember at times you are going to be slaughtering animals that belong to farmers, and you might push them further into abject poverty,” Mazwinduma said. “Most of the time, the compensation of animals that are slaughtered is nowhere near the equivalent value if they were to sell them at the market.”
Bose Sethupa, a farmer from the affected region, said while the livelihoods of many people will be affected, the government has to contain the disease.
“It is a good move to try and contain the spread of the disease, but at the same time, it is not too good to the farmers because the government compensation is lower than the value of what the farmer will be having,” Sethupa said. “But apart from that … the move is good. It is truly meant to protect the export market, which is very key to our economy.”
Roughly half of Botswana’s beef exports — or about 9,000 tons — are sent to the EU each year.