Poultry sector itself will have to cover costs of disease in future
‘Changes are necessary if the poultry sector is to have a future in the
Netherlands’, concludes the Den Hartog working group in its report,
presented Thursday 5 June. Recommendations in the report include a proposal
for an EU vaccination policy, fewer but stricter hygiene regulations,
better registration and monitoring, and new forms of insurance.
Led by Professor Leo den Hartog, of the Animal Production Systems group at
Wageningen University, the working group was appointed by the Executive
Board of Wageningen UR to compile an inventory of knowledge and facts
concerning the outbreak of avian influenza that started at the end of
February. The report was presented today, Thursday 5 June, at the press
centre Nieuwspoort in The Hague by De Hartog and Chairman of the Board of
Wageningen UR, Professor Aalt Dijkhuizen.
The outbreak of avian influenza has nothing to do with the intensive form
of poultry keeping that is practised in the Netherlands, reassures the
working group. Battery hens do not have lower resistance than other
animals. Chickens that have outdoor access are more at risk of contracting
avian influenza because they are more likely to come into contact with the
virus from wild birds. This risk has to be weighed up against other issues,
such as a more animal friendly form of poultry keeping. But according to
the working group we can’t have it both ways: free-range chickens and
protection from disease don’t go together.
Once an outbreak has started, the speed with which the disease spreads is
determined by the density and size of farms. One of the key factors is the
number of visits a farm has from business-related contacts outside. There
should be fewer regulations concerning hygiene and outside visitors, but
these regulations should be more strictly enforced. Poultry farmers’
contacts with outsiders should be better registered, so that it is easier
to determine which farms may be infected. An early-warning system should
also be developed that makes identification and diagnosis of the disease
quicker; low pathogenic strains of the virus that may mutate into the
deadly virus could then be detected.
According to the report the European Commission should be urged to
reconsider its non-vaccination policy for avian influenza. Vaccination of
birds that are not kept for export of meat or eggs should be possible at
least. Vaccination of birds kept for non-commercial purposes should be well
registered. In addition a marker vaccine should be developed that makes it
possible to distinguish between vaccinated and infected birds.
The poultry sector itself will have to pay for the costs of an outbreak of
a disease such as avian influenza in the future, according to Chairman of
the Board of Wageningen UR, Professor Aalt Dijkhuizen. “It is illogical
that society is presented with the bill for these costs at present.