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Farmers protest livestock cull in Bulgaria after rinderpest outbreak

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By Daniel Bellamy  with Reuters
Farmers protest livestock cull in Bulgaria after rinderpest outbreak

Hundreds of farmers in Bulgaria have protested in the capital Sofia against a government mass slaughter of livestock.

The cull was prompted by an outbreak of ovine rinderpest which was found at a farm close to the border with Turkey. The disease is highly contagious but doesn't infect humans and is the first major outbreak in the EU.

"We blockade farms and this is our war against the administration. We temporarily stopped the authorities," one of the protest organisers, Vladimir Pavlov, an economics professor, said.

More than 4,000 animals have already been slaughtered to try to prevent the further spread of the disease and avert a European Unio^n ban on Bulgarian milk and dairy exports.

A few hours after the protests last Wednesday Prime Minister Boyko Borissov sacked Deputy Agriculture Minister Tsvetan Dimitrov and several other officials in the ministry over the handling of the outbreak.

The director of Four Paws, a Bulgarian animal protection charity, said the government could have waited for signs of the disease to appear rather than slaughtering the animals just on lab tests results.

"It is recommended to observe the animals, to take regular blood samples, to monitor every two weeks whether they show clinical signs. If clinical signs occur - to respond," said Mariana Ivanova, who also works as a vet.

Bulgarians also expressed outrage on social networks, saying the situation could have been dealt with through quarantining. It has also been alleged that in some cases, the culling took place before laboratory test results.