Contain anthrax now

HARARE - The late Zimbabwe Veterinary and Livestock Services boss — Stewart Hargreaves — was a man who stood head and shoulders above the rest in his own field.

Hargreaves had the passion and commitment to sustain livestock livelihoods in Zimbabwe and indeed the rest of the world. Whenever there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, whether here or anywhere in the world, Hargreaves would not hesitate to provide his expertise.

In the 1990s, he was instrumental in putting the deadly disease under control in the United Kingdom. Of course Zimbabwe was still an exporter of beef to the European Union and the UK formed the largest chunk of its beef quota.

Hargreaves died in August from kidney cancer, bringing to a sad end a career littered with distinction.

We do not want to think that Hargreaves’ death means the deaths of many livestock in Zimbabwe.

But two months after his death, Zimbabwe is battling to contain anthrax which has killed 100 cattle and left hundreds of people needing treatment in the provinces of Mashonaland and Manicaland.

In the southeast of the country there are also growing fears of a serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Part of the reason why cattle have died is that the Veterinary Services department has run out of vaccines and there are no measures to control cattle movement.

This is really sad coming at a time when Zimbabwe is battling to rebuild its national herd which was blown off by the 2000 haphazard and often-violent farm seizures as well as droughts.

Many lives are at risk because there are no guarantees that hungry villagers and in worst cases, meat consumers, would not be exposed to contaminated meat.

The biggest irony is that our government has shown zest in protecting its citizens from possible outbreaks associated with cattle emanating from outside, but failing to show the same consistence when dealing with the same problems right at our doorstep.

In 2009, Agriculture minister Joseph Made slapped all imported dairy products, including formulae by a Swiss company, following an outbreak of a livestock-related disease in South Africa.

That was commendable.

But why is it that we show concern over these diseases yet when they break out we are caught napping?
Could it be that someone is forever taking eyes off the ball?

Surely our government can do better by making ministers accountable for their actions.

We are left with no option but to think, though it may sound strange, that Hargreaves death could spell disaster in livestock management.

How does Made explain the shambolic state of affairs in the vet division? - Staff Writer

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