Summary written by – Laurie Denyer Willis –

In this carefully thought out piece on biosecurity and the drive to create ‘biosecure’ and ‘disease-free’ pigs in the United Kingdom, Hinchliffe and Ward (2014) detail the ways that farmers actively work with, rather than against, complex microbial environments, in the ‘making of safe life’ for pigs and humans. The authors outline the kinds of situated knowledge and practices that vets, breeders and farmers deploy to raise healthy pigs, and how this in-depth knowledge is “obscured and even endangered when biosecurity is reduced to the simple protection of disease-free livestock”.

Raising and keeping healthy pigs – that are healthy for humans and the environments they live in –  is a complex dance that is more than just ‘keeping disease out’. In fact, the relations and interactions of animals, microbes and people are key to ensuring health. When policy tries to reduce these complex relations into universal categories called ‘disease-free’ or ‘biosecure’ it risks being part of the problem, not the solution. How might we instead enable and listen to farmers about how they manage complex and heterogeneous disease immunity in their pigs that actually allows them to manage threats to health? As Hinchliffe and Ward write, “practitioners are not responsible for biosecurity, but responsive to living complexities and make valuable contributions towards making life safe.”

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Categories: Ecologies