Jean-Louis Jorissen learnt from well-informed sources that the FAMHP/FAVV proposed this in Wallonia to the KBDB/RFCB, which said it had no objections, which is understandable. Indeed, this is part of the National Covenant on reducing antibiotics in the animal sector.
This Covenant was signed in 2016 by Maggie De Block, Minister of Public Health, and Willy Borsus, Minister of Agriculture, and the various partners involved in the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine (agricultural organisations, veterinary associations, the association of the pharmaceutical industry, the association of animal feed manufacturers, managers of specifications, animal health organisations, etc.). It aims for a 50% reduction in the general use of antibiotics and a 75% reduction for critical antibiotics between 2011 and 2020.
"For 40 years, as you know, I have addressed the misuse of antibiotics on countless forums, in panel discussions, in thousands of brochures and leaflets. It would be nice if I could still get my money's worth because in many places I have been criticised, sometimes with a frown, for not being realistic or naive. Is that the case?
I am convinced that pigeon racing would be the biggest winner." Jean-Louis Jorissen
To everyone's surprise, significant concentrations of the painkiller ibuprofen have recently been found in the mouth of the English River Humber. These findings emerged from a year-long analysis of water samples. It is unclear what effect the drugs have on living creatures in the water, but the researchers point out that drugs are designed to be biologically active even at low concentrations. They are surprised that nature has not been able to break down this medicine efficiently.
Concerning antibiotics, pesticides, etc., there is also a concern about eco-toxicity, i.e. the possible harmful effects on the soil and everything that lives in it. In China, people are also aware of the scale of the problem and are raising the alarm. The attached map shows the contamination of Chinese rivers by antibiotics.
Putting heads together.
Jean-Louis Jorissen: "Last week, I attended a refresher training session at Hasselt University on the microbiome and intestinal flora by Prof. De Schepper. He stated that after a course of antibiotics, the intestinal flora of humans sometimes needs several years before it is fully restored. A few days ago, the alarm was raised as scientists warned that a million species are in danger of disappearing."
Therefore, everything that is unnatural is on the back burner these days. The use of antibiotics in pigeon racing is in the spotlight. Germany's animal rights group PETA is working relentlessly to ban racing in pigeon sport (fortunately without result for the time being). "It would be best not to have too big a debate in the media about this, but to guide the process as much as possible by putting forward positive proposals ourselves. We should be ahead of these movements, do our homework in time and create a strong pigeon-friendly competition framework," says Jean-Louis Jorissen.
When the competition starts, our pigeons have to participate in programs increasing distances, while the weather gets warmer, there is more basketing pressure, etc. And yes, with a bit of coccidiosis, a little bit of tricho, you can still fly for a prize (but also strongly contaminate the baskets). Preventive treatments can be tempting, and without knowing it, you have started a system that will not last in the future.
"We should reflect on such an announced ban scenario and put our heads together with all the parties concerned - veterinarians, KBDB/RFCB, experienced fanciers, and why not pigeon-fancier politicians," says Jean-Louis Jorissen.
A few things in a nutshell.
- A total ban seems unlikely at first (the Covenant also calls for "only" a 50-75% reduction).
- It could be imposed that pigeons taking part in races must not be treated.
- Preventive treatment is out of the question in any case.
- It is indefensible to basket sick pigeons.
- The presence of a veterinarian during the basketing could bring relief, but this creates a lot of practical problems. He can only make a quick assessment because (clinical) examination of every pigeon is almost impossible.
- In addition to the obligatory vaccinations, should an antibiotics register be kept on the pigeon loft list, as is the case in livestock farming? Such a list would also include the waiting periods to be observed after cessation of the treatment. Besides the doping products, tracing the antibiotics is complex.
- If they are allowed to use for responsible therapeutic purposes, remnants can be dragged into the loft, leading to many false-positive tests. Etc. etc.
- Equestrian sports do have fairly well-defined regulations, but they cannot be compared to pigeon racing in practice.
- And of course the critical question: what does it cost and who will pay for it?
It would require some adjustment for many fanciers. But whoever reads the Covenant cannot help but think of such a scenario. We can also talk about the positive consequences.
The ideal scenario.
We could have made the pigeon the most robust bird in nature if we had not been spilling with antibiotics. We have bred for performance and resistance through the highly selective sport. The weaker ones are systematically left behind, and the racing pigeon is more potent in terms of muscles and endurance than its relatives living in the wild. The unfortunate thing is that we have weakened the immune system against diseases in racing pigeons by treating them with antibiotics, compared to those in the wild.
If there is to be an antibiotic-free pigeon sport, the racing pigeon will undoubtedly be the most robust bird in the world, and that is a beautiful challenge!
COMED made all these considerations 40 years ago, drew its conclusions and acted accordingly. We are ready now, and the fancier should not be afraid anymore because there are precious and reliable alternatives.
COMED's primary products, in particular Curol, Lisocur+, Roni, Stopmite, play an essential role in disease defence. They strengthen natural protection and support the immune system.
Recently in East Brabant, problems with young pigeons are reported: apart from black noses and eyes, not ok, but here and there mortality. It would concern adeno (type 2). Finally, after a thorough investigation by autopsy (e.g. enlarged spleen, inflammation of the air sac etc.), it appears to be ornithosis (Chlamydia bacteria). Such infection cannot be seen in an ordinary clinical examination, as there are no specific signs, and the clinical picture is often confused with coryza. Usual medical advice in case of ornithosis: 5 weeks doxycycline; however, without 100% certainty...
What are we doing, then, if that antibiotic ban comes about?
Chlamydia (very contagious, directly from pigeon to pigeon, via the feed, via dust, simply through the air) can be tackled best with (very) good hygiene and much attention for optimal resistance. Therefore, Lisocur+ in double dose (20ml/Litre) is an ideal tool. The few that we leave behind, we didn't want... They probably wouldn't survive in the wild either.