Science - April 7, 2011

'They don't believe us'

At a public hearing on 18 March, organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, the residents of Kootwijkerbroek once again confronted the authorities with their view that the foot and mouth disease cull in 2001 was unlawful.

Aldo Dekker of the Central Veterinary Institute in Lelystad explained yet again that there really was evidence of the foot and mouth virus in a calf from Kootwijkerbroek.
Was it a tough public hearing? 'I also get emotional thinking about the tens of thousands of animals that were killed then. I understand that the people facing us there still have difficulty coping with this. That was tough. At the same time I was pleased I could give my side of the story to so many of those directly involved. We were often very reactive in our responses. Now I could explain clearly with supporting material that the result of the foot and mouth test was correct and that the cull of the animals back then was necessary.
There have been dozens of lawsuits. Proceedings were started against the measures only three days after the announcement that the farm in Kootwijkerbroek was infected. Our results were discussed in detail then. We had established the presence of the foot and mouth virus in the calf in question in three independent tests. This result was confirmed later by a test on a second sample taken from the same animal.
Later, interested parties requested an independent DNA test. That test, in 2003, confirmed the identity of the samples in which foot and mouth disease was established. After that, they even went to the European Court asking whether ID-Lelystad was really authorized and competent to do this. On the request of the court we showed them the laboratory protocols. These have all now been made public.
I find it frustrating that so much of our information is called into question time and time again. Everything we say is branded as lies, though as yet no evidence contradicting our research results has been provided. The atmosphere at the public hearing sometimes got emotional and it is not nice if the opposing party holds you personally responsible for the tragedy they went through.'

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