Jaap Von Dalen is one of the farmers who must make up his mind in the next couple of weeks whether he wants to vaccinate.
The birds used to roam the fields freely, but now the government has ordered all birds to be kept inside unless they are vaccinated, fearing they may come into contact with infected wild birds and spread the virus.
Jaap lost all his birds to the 2003 outbreak of bird flu and would like to protect his new flock, but knows that vaccination carries other risks.
"I want to vaccinate because I know what bird flu can do - after the last outbreak I didn't even want to be a farmer anymore. I started again, built up a new flock and now I export my eggs to Germany," he said.
"But I'm worried the Germans won't want to buy produce from chickens which have been vaccinated, and if I can't sell my goods then I'll be broke."
[...]Jaap's business thrives at present partly because his products carry the "free range" stamp - but if he keeps the birds inside, he knows he will probably lose that valuable label.
[...] France has already seen the negative effect of vaccinating birds - several countries have refused to accept imports of French poultry meat after farmers in Landes were given permission to vaccinate geese and ducks.
Critics of vaccination warn that current bird flu vaccines do not offer complete protection from infection and could, in some circumstances, "hide" the virus in affected flocks.
But there is some irony in the fact that even a truly effective vaccine would probably hurt the poultry industry in Europe. This goes back to the pro-"organic" media campaign in Europe. The debate was never one between health officials / researchers, an honest comparison of facts and findings. Instead, EU farmers and politicians dominated the public discourse trying very hard to ingrain into people's minds the fact that organic foods and free range poultry were simply better, and non-organic foods should be distrusted on principle. The debate was not primarily driven by public health concerns, that was simply marketing. The unholly aura around non-organic / GM foods was a great tool for protectionism, limiting competition from US and other markets and lending a hand to EU farmers (who also receive huge subsidies). It is ironic to see this pro-organic campaign come back to haunt some of the same farmers farmers, who must now deal with bird flu.
Not surprisingly, there are now calls from European farmers to have a government-enforced, EU-wide, mandatory vaccination campaign, all for "animal health" concerns of course:
Klaus Osinga from the LTO, the Dutch Farmers Association, speaks for many in the Netherlands.
"It doesn't make sense for some countries to vaccinate but for other EU countries like the UK not to. It's a political and an economic decision. Perhaps it's time to think more about animal health and about stopping the spread of bird flu," he said.