Science - March 2, 2006

Droevendaal prepares for bird flu

As the bird flu continues to head steadily northwards, Holland is preparing en masse for dealing with the droppings of infected migratory birds as they fly overhead. The student complex Free State Droevendaal is no exception. They have about one hundred free range chickens that now have to be confined under all kinds of plastic and canvas covers.

The Minister of Agriculture, Cees Veerman, had already announced that poultry-farming Holland would have to keep their chickens inside. Last week however, he added that outside yard space for free-range chickens must be protected against infected droppings from above too. This order applies to the chicken lovers of Droevendaal as well.

Since most of the Droevendaalers are vegetarians, they keep their chickens basically for fun. ‘We like the liveliness in the garden and use the eggs in our pursuit of total self sufficiency,’ says chicken lover Merijn Biemans.

Although the government now allows vaccination, he does not regard this as an option since the authorities will kill the chickens anyway if the virus is detected in the area. Neither does he think that vegetarians should make an exception and eat their years of fodder investments before they become infected. ‘The government kills the chickens in a more friendly way than we ourselves could do.’ This happened three years ago as well during the last outbreak of avian influenza. ‘I will miss the chickens – I remember the ghostly silence that settled over Droevendaal those days.’ / MV

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