Nieuws - 23 februari 2012


Once again a serious livestock disease - Schmallenberg - has broken out in the Netherlands, although its extent and consequences are still unclear. How, what, where and now what?

The disease is caused by a new virus, named after the little village of Schmallenberg in Sauerland where the disease was first seen. It belongs to a group of exotic viruses, has only six genes, and causes deformities of the foetus and horrible abortions in sheep, goats and cows.
The virus is driving not just farmers to despair but also the businesses in the German ski resort. They are afraid that tourists might avoid the place and are demanding a change in the name of the virus. Meanwhile, livestock farming is threatened by yet another export disaster. Russia has already said it is not letting any more Dutch sheep or goats in.
I try to put myself in the position of an unborn lamb. My destiny should be to make people go soft - aaah - but the reality is rather different. My mutilated body arouses antipathy and condemnation, I am a financial setback. All I want to do is live but that is not an option. I might be stillborn and if not, what will it be? A needle, a twist of the neck or slowly fading away in agony?
What should we do? I don't think the answer is so difficult. After swine fever, BSE, bird flu, Q fever, the EHEC bacteria and bluetongue you might think we would have had enough. Only by making fundamental changes to the way we farm can we avoid such afflictions in the future. How can we make the switch? When will the decision be taken? How long does it have to freeze before we see the thaw?