Nature Policy, Large Ecosystems
von H. Kampf, Wageningen / Niederlande
9. Farmed and non-farmed animals
When is an animal ill, when does an animal have the ability to take care of itself and when does it require assistance? When does an animal suffer needlessly or is in unbearable pain that should be prevented or stopped? When should an animal die a natural death, and when should it be put out of its misery? The answers to these difficult questions will depend on various factors, such as:
The animals in two of the larger Dutch nature reserves, the Oostvaardersplassen and Veluwezoom, are de-domesticated to such an extent that they must be considered non-farmed.
Considering them farmed would thwart the objectives of the nature policy. Thus the State Secretary decided to maintain the distinction between farmed and non-farmed, using the criteria above to determine an animals status.
Legal status of the directive and its implementation
The Animal Health and Welfare Act is enforced as a criminal law. The Directive has an important steering effect for the criminal justice system: in general compliance with the provisions laid down in the Directive implies conformance with Article 36 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act. Further agreements are being made with the Public Prosecutors Office about using the Directive as a framework for enforcement.
The health of a herd in large nature reserves is established by means of an annual veterinary examination. Rules for the way this examination is to take place and how the results must be reported will be laid down in a protocol. This protocol will be drawn up in the course of the year 2000.
Every animal in a nature area is taken care of. What this care amounts to depends on the nature of the site, the circumstances and the extent of the animals de-domestication. Since there is a distinction between farmed and non-farmed animals there is a difference in the way they are taken care of.
9.1 Farmed animals:
Non-farmed animals (in large nature reserves where the grazers are considered non-farmed):
The concept of requiring assistance as referred to in Section 36(3) of the Animal Health and Welfare Act is acknowledged under the Large Herbivore Directive and applied to large herbivores, when:
With non-farmed animals, human intervention only takes place when:
9.2 Veterinairy measures
The EU requires that Member States take requisite measures when there is an outbreak of such infectious diseases as Food and Mouth Disease (Regeling aanwijzing besmettelijke dierziekten). In such an event, Member States can also - depending on the situation - introduce extra measures to contain the disease. The Animal Health and Welfare Act provides for such measures.
The Oostvaardersplassen and Veluwezoom are at some distance from farms (resp. 700 m and some kilometers).
The risk that an infection in the area would spread from the large herbivores to the animals on the neighbouring farms is negligible since large herbivores are only taken from or brought to the area in exceptional cases and contacts between persons and transport vehicles from the area and the farms do not take place. Nevertheless a monitoring programme is in place to check for the presence of an animal disease in both areas.
The control of farm-related diseases
The control of farm-related diseases such as IBR lies in the hands of the sector. In general:
Animal welfare and area's ecological carrying power
Human intervention in cases of suffering, injury and desperate situations
When an animal is dying but does not suffer unbearable pain the site manager need not intervene but may leave the animal to die in peace.
In large nature reserves:
In other nature areas:
This bull and these red deer lived under the same circumstances, but are in perfect condition (both pictures are from (April 3rd 1999).
Dead bodies of large herbivores (cattle, horses, sheep and goats) must be destroyed under the Destruction Act . The Act however does not apply to animals in the wild, such as red deer, roe deer and wild boar. Dead animals starting to rot is a natural process within the ecosystem that contributes to natural diversity. These dead bodies may however not pose a risk for the environment, public health or nearby farms.
In the Oostvaardersplassen and Veluwezoom an exemption to the Destruction Act for leaving dead bodies in the field as carrion was withdrawn as there was no legal basis for doing so. The Destruction Act must comply with Directive 90/667/EEC.
The dead bodies of cattle and horses must be removed because of the risk they pose to:
Given the conditions of the nature reserves, however, it is not always possible for site managers to remove dead bodies. The manager must always, whatever the circumstances, take steps to eliminate the risk of infection.
of ID-Lelystad have shown that the risks of dead animals in the field
in so far as they have not died from a contagious disease are slight
and can easily be managed. They do however warn for the possible risk
of botulism which easily develops in dead organic material in hot weather.
The Clostridium botulinum bacteria may in certain conditions
secrete botulin which is highly toxic.
Another aspect of animal welfare is the feed. In choosing a type of grazing the quantity and quality of feed available during different seasons is very important. In general, supplementary feeding is not desired since it will eutrophicate the natural system. Only in severe winters, when there is a thick snow cover, supplementary feeding is justifiable.
On this slide an idea is given; during the summer hay stacks can be made and fenced in. Later on in the winter step by step and depending on the social structure of the herd the fences can be put away and the animals can eat the hay from the heaps. A modern variant are the big rolls of hay, as made by the modern hay-packing machines. Sometimes it is necessary to provide extras such as mineral licks, to be hung where vegetation can stand some trampling.
In fact, in optimal natural circumstances this would not be necessary. Minerals can also be found in bones or even in a dead rabbit (see Photo 13) ...
... or even in the placenta just after the birth of a Highland calf (see photo 14).
Different grasses have different nutrient contents. Wavy hair-grass contains nutrients throughout the year (see Photo 15). Purple moor-grass (see Photo 16) is nutritional from May to September only. On the poorer soils, these densities vary between one grazer per five ha and one per thirty ha.
This figure gives you an insight in the development of the weight of bulls in a year-round-grazing system. Think of the decline in winter. In winter and early spring the animals lose weight, in practice amounting to about 30% of their autumn weight. In spring the animals regain this weight within a few weeks.
Veterinarian Committee for Large Herbivores in Nature Areas
In 1994 the Veterinarian Committee for Large Herbivores in Nature Areas was founded to enhance the discussion about the large herbivores in nature management - both on a policy level and amongst farmer organisations - about different subjects (such as legal aspects, veterinarian aspects, aspects of animal health and welfare and sometimes feelings of displeasure).
This platform, which reports to the Dutch minister of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries is composed of nature managers, agricultural representatives, veterinarians and animal welfare representatives from various disciplines both from the relevant ministries, nature and animal protection bodies as from the agricultural trade and industry.
Having such a platform is a good way to bring the discussion to the right level and to avoid discussions in too early a stage in daily newspapers or on television. Public awareness is something to reckon with, especially in crowded countries such as the Netherlands.