Thousands of people rallied in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province on Monday to reject the local government’s plan to cull swine fever.
The government plan was initiated in order to stem an outbreak of swine fever that has killed some 46,000 pigs since September.
The protesters, many of whom were farmers who fear for their livelihoods, gathered outside the parliamentary building in the provincial capital Medan, carrying banners that said “save pigs’’ and “reject the elimination of pigs’’.
A protester said, standing on a truck equipped with a sound system in a video broadcast by the local news site Rakyatsumut.com.
“We appeal to you council members, listen to our plea, don’t kill our pigs.’’
Police estimated the number of protesters at more than 2,000.
The provincial animal health office said African swine flu and hog cholera have killed at least 46,600 pigs in North Sumatra since September.
The diseases have also killed about 1,000 pigs on the resort island of Bali.
The outbreak prompted rumours that the government would destroy all pigs in the province, but this was denied by a local councillor, Victor Silaen.
“There will be no total elimination of pigs but those that have been infected must be culled to avoid infecting others,’’ Silaen was quoted by the Viva.co.id news portal.
The government had suggested that farmers switch to cattle, but many rejected the idea.
The Island’s governor launched an “eat pork’’ campaign to allay fears among the public that would be infected if they consume the meat.
African swine fever is a viral disease that only infects pigs and is not considered a public health threat or food safety concern.
Pig farmers in North Sumatra launched a pork festival in October in an act of protest after local officials suggested that the famed Lake Toba be turned into a halal tourism destination.
Muslims are forbidden from eating pork under Islamic rules because the meat is considered unclean.
About 63 per cent of North Sumatra’s 15 million people are Muslim, but members of the indigenous Batak tribe are mainly Christian.