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Calls for pigs in Rome sanctuary to be spared from swine fever cull

Rescued animals get stay of execution until Thursday.

Rome health authorities have postponed until 18 August the culling of 140 healthy pigs and wild boar on a farm sanctuary following a court order over the weekend.

The courts had initially rejected an appeal calling for the animals to be spared from the cull, part of measures to tackle African swine fever (ASF) in the Lazio region around Rome.

However on Sunday the animals got a temporary reprieve, until Thursday (not 14 September as first reported), pending "clarifications" regarding the risk of the epidemic spreading on the farm.

The animals living at the Sfattoria degli Ultimi, none of which has swine fever, are all either rescued from the wild or from mistreatment, and include young wild boar orphaned after their mothers were shot or killed in car accidents.

The cull is part of measures to stem the spread of swine fever - a highly contagious viral disease that is fatal to pigs and wild hogs but not transmitted to humans - while also drastically reducing the numbers of wild boar n the Lazio region.

The measures include slaughtering pigs and wild boar found near active cases of swine fever, first detected in Rome earlier this year, with the emergency measures focused on a vast "red zone" in north and north-west areas of the capital.

Last week the Sfattoria degli Ultimi was informed by local health authorities that its animals were to be slaughtered, an order the volunteers took to the Lazio regional administrative tribunal (TAR).

The courts initially upheld the order, with more than 210,000 people signing an online petition demanding the "absurd" cull to be stopped.

Animal rights groups have rallied to the defence of the sanctuary and activists from across Italy arrived in Rome to show their support.

The animals in the shelter are cared for by around 200 volunteers who issued a statement describing the culling order as "an incredible episode of injustice".

"Our animals are all checked, microchipped, absolutely healthy and registered" - the sanctuary stated - "They cannot be killed".

Photo RAI News

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