Science - March 30, 2011

Farmers doubt evidence concerning hoof and mouth disease

Aldo Dekker had to explain all over again that his institute found the virus of the Hoof and Mouth Disease (HMD) in a calf in Kootwijkerbroek.

Animals in several livestock farms in Kootwijkerbroek were culled in 2001 after the former ID-Lelystad established the presence of HMD in one of the farms.  Several livestock farmers in that area have been carrying out legal procedures against this decision for the last ten years.  Aldo Dekker of the Central Veterinary Institute (CVI) in Lelystad had to explain all over again op 18 March why the culling was necessary during a court hearing of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture & Innovation.
How many times in this judicial process was it for you?
'We've been through tens of cases. Three days after the announcement that the farm in Kootwijkerbroek was infected, a lawsuit was filed against the order. In addition, our reports were discussed in detail. We had established the presence of HMD in that calf in three separate tests. This was subsequently confirmed by a test on a second sample of the same animal. Later, those involved had asked for an independent DNA research to be carried out. This research, carried out in 2003, pinned down exactly the identity of the samples in which HMD was found. Afterwards, the rights and proficiency of ID-Lelystad were even questioned before the European court. At the court's order, we showed them our laboratory procedures. All these have now been made public. It is very frustrating that the information which we have provided was questioned time and again.'
Why was that?
'Whatever we say has been described as untruth, although there has been no evidence up to today to show that our test results were wrong. This time round, they brought up two hundred questions concerning details, such as the meaning of a comma in a sentence in our fax message. This sentence, according to the complainants, could have been read or explained in another way, but I have written a reply with only one message: HMD has been established. The mood during the court hearing was sometimes emotionally charged, and it was unpleasant when the other party held you personally responsible for the tragedy which many had to go through.'
Has it been difficult?
'It was emotionally disturbing for me too when ten thousand animals had to be killed then, and to have to face people who understandably still have problems with that. That was difficult. At the same time, I was glad that I could tell my story to those directly affected. We often replied in a reactive manner. This time round, I could explain more clearly that the result of the HMD test was correct and that the culling of the animals was necessary at that time.'

Re:act