Center for Bio-diversitet

International Evaluation

Answers to the International Evaluation of the Danish conservation of genetic resources domestic animals.

This page was established shortly before Easter with only the 4 questions and the introduction as a start.
The possibility of being involved in answering was announce on this homepage and also in Loci no. 2 newsletter published by Centre for Bio-diversity), which was published shortly before Easter (Enclosure 1 a).
During the interim period until finalising the editing, the response page was updated a couple of times each week.
The editing was finalised on 05 June 2001.

The preliminaries of the International Evaluation.
An international evaluation of all breeding aspects of the joint Danish efforts within was originally announced at the start of year 2000 as an investigation where the evaluation group was to pay visits to selected breeders; however, nothing happened until December where it was announced that it was now going to be a questionnaire evaluation.
The lack of information and discussion prior to the evaluation as to what genetic conservation really is seen in a breeding perspective has so far led to the deplorable result that certain breeder associations have only reported addresses of breeders participating in selection and prize-giving to their animals, probably with the best of intentions, because these breeders seen in a selection context possess the ”best” animals.
In this way the evaluation will be ”lopsided” from the start because breeders involved in pure-breeding and conservation do not necessarily hear about the evaluation and are given an opportunity to participate.
The process does not strengthen the credibility of the evaluation; however, the Centre for Bio-Diversity has in Loci no. 1-2001 (Enclosure 1 b) and on our homepage urged breeders of traditional breeds with an interest in pure-breeding and conservation of genes to approach [SJVF ] The Danish Agricultural and Veterinary Research Council) and request a questionnaire; however, we can only reach a fraction or the breeders who should know about the evaluation and be given a possibility to express their opinion.
The Centre for Bio-Diversity has provided the Danish Research Agency with about 100 names and addresses of breeder associations which should be invited to participate in the evaluation if an evaluation comprising the total of Danish efforts within conservation of genetic resources of Danish domestic animals is to be conducted. The Danish Research Agency has, however, only sent a briefing to a random selection of these associations.
We have asked the Danish Research Agency which breeds fall within the target group and who performed the selection, but have never received an answer!
The definition ”originally established in Denmark” used in the evaluation seems rather erratic. It is a fact that several of the breeds subsidised by the Genetic Resources Committe originally came from another country ? just like the Oldenborg Horse and the Kilk (a danish bearded breed of flying pigeons) which are not subsidised.  The Hertha Pointer and the Kantvingen (a danish storked breed of flying pigeons) are not included in the Genetic Resources Committee’s publication ”Old Breeds of Danish Domestic Animals” although both breeds were founded in Denmark and do not exist elsewhere. Several other examples could be mentioned, and there seems to be no clear-cut line in the selection of Danish breeds, some breeds are excluded in spite of a history parallel to some of the breeds which the Genetic Resources Committe has chosen to give priority to.
According to the Rio Convention and FAO recommendations, the individual country has a special obligation to secure breeds found only in that particular country, and this includes local or national lines of other breeds which through many generations of breeding have adapted to the local conditions. In other words, the countries are to monitor and protect the total genetic variation.
The Danish definition of conservation-worthy genetic resources and ”old Danish  breeds” has so far been very limited seen in relation to FAO’s recommendations and the practice of other countries. For comparison you could have a look at:

In order to evaluate the total Danish efforts to preserve the genetic resources of domestic animals, it is important and necessary to involve all who are breeding non-modern breeds. This has not been done, and therefore the credibility of the evaluation is limited to being an estimate of the work of the Genetic Resources Committee primarily performed by breeders of the breeds supported by the Committee. Considering the fact that Denmark’s obligations within this field is only known to a very limited extent among breeders, it cannot be expected that the groups potentially belonging to the segment ”breeds which the Genetic Resources Committee has actively refused to work together with” discover the evaluation and react on it if they see the project mentioned in newspapers.

Question 1:
Describe the Association’s efforts (strong and weak sides) to preserve the genetic resources of the old Danish breeds which the Association focuses on.


The Centre for Bio-Diversity was founded in 1995 to function as an independent information centre for biological diversity among domesticated animals and cultivated plants.
Since 1996 the Centre has issued a newsletter in addition to 2 books.
All activities are based on voluntary work, free rooms, computer hardware, telephone etc., and financing is one of the Centre’s weak points.
The membership fees from the presently about 200 support members are the most important source of income; in addition there are incomes from sale of books, and from time to time fees for features and other articles.
Applications for major amounts to finance professional literature, operational costs of secretariat and salaries fail on the fact that the Green Foundation, which supports activities following up on the Rio Convention in Denmark, finds that cultivated plants and domesticated animals fall outside what they see as conservation of biological diversity, and the Genetic Resources Committee has very limited funds for support.
We have, however, received support for printing costs in connection with the 2 books and a debate and thematical issue on conservation work in Denmark:
Hans Ranvig: The justification of conserving the Danish Landrace Fowl. 1. First edition 1997 (Enclosure 2)
  - Plum’s Ecological Foundation DKR 2000.
Heine Refsing: Old Danish pigeon breeds 1998. (Enclosure 3)
  - Genetic Resources Committee DKR 25,000.
  - DFfR DKR 5000.
Newsletter from Centre for Bio-Diversity no.  4-2000. (Enclosure 4)
  - The Green Foundation DKR 11,000.
  - Plum’s Ecological Foundation DKR 4500.
Also the Centre for Bio-Diversity is suffering from the atmosphere within the field as the 2 associations struggeling  The association "Old Danish Breeds" and "Danish Livestock ?Breeder's Association for Old Danish Breeds" both openly suspect the Centre of being an accomplice of their counterpart in spite of our declared neutrality. The first reaction of other breeders and interest organisations tells much about the reputation of genetic ressource work in Denmark. They ask more or less openly: We take it that you are not involved with "The association Old Danish Breeds" or "Danish Livestock - Breeder Association for Old Danish Breeds" ?

Question 2:
Which do you find to be the strong and weak sides of the efforts of the Genetic Resources Committee established by the Ministry of Food in relation to preservation of the genetic resources of old Danish breeds in the period starting in 1991 and ending in year 2000? 


Strong sides:
The Genetic Resources Committee has become increasingly active during the period, but apart from that it is hardly reasonable to ask an NGO to evaluate whether a governmental committee has done a good or bad job on the basis of a given grant and mandate. It would require resources outside our reach to conduct a fair and thorough analysis hereof. None of the NGOs in Denmark receive funding of a magnitude to finance salaries and expenses for participation in or management of such an extensive effort. Therefore we shall abstain from a further evaluation of the strong sides, and the Government is probably in control of utilisation of appropriations in conformity with the planned objectives. We shall therefore limit ourselves to indicating some problems and launching some suggestions as answers to Question 2; however, this should not be interpreted to imply that the work of the Genetic Resources Committee has only had weak sides over the years passed. We take it that the Committee has followed its mandate and appropriations description and done its best within the relatively narrow framework and the relatively tangled background for cooperation with breeders and interest organisations.
The Centre for Bio-Diversity has experienced the Genetic Resources Committee as cooperative and non-bureaucratic in our limited contact with the Committee.
The Centre for Bio-Diversity has received support from the Genetic Resources Committee for the following:
1. Publication of the book: Old Danish pigeon breeds
2. Support promise for part of the printing costs in connection with new book on the Danish Landrace Fowl.
The Centre for Bio-Diversity has from the Genetic Resources Committee been declined support for the following:
1. A thematical issue on the Danish discussions on genetic conservation.
2. A grant of DKR 10,000 kr. for professional litterature and works of reference to strengthen the activities of the Centre as an independent information centre. (Enclosure 5)
3. An information and discussion campaign of 11 months with at view to creating more dialogue and knowledge about genetic conservation. In this connection the work with the International Evaluation. (Enclosure 6)

Securing the populations
The populations are small and do not increase significantly. The breeding lines are not secured against sudden disappearance because of dissolution of individual stocks or exaggerated inbreeding.

Cooperation with NGOs
GRU´s controversy with Oregaard and the association Old Danish Breeds has not been settled and even spread to other important breeders.
It is hardly credible that Danish breeders would refuse to accept subsidies without feeling that they have important reasons for saying so, and these reasons should be respected ? unless the breeders’s motive is a wish to acquire a kind of monopoly ? and this can easily be tested by obliging them.
The Genetic Resources Committee often refers to critical breeders being welcome, but being unwilling to participate and conform to the stipulated conditions.  However, these conditions can be made up in different ways; they are not inherent in nature.
The assignment has several dimensions:
To preserve the animals in a professionally responsible way and to make the breeders put this assignment into practice. In a way breeders are just as important as the animals, and the concept of professional responsibility may imply more than one access to the assignment. As long as straight breeding is practiced in the real meaning of the word. (cf. Enclosure 7)
The Genetic Resources Committee has apparently chosen to establish particularly tight ties to a single of the the many small interest organisations The Association Danish Livestock ? Breeder's Association for Old Danish Breeds. In the somewhat ”tricky” cooperation climate, myths often arise and put the association in a position where unfair doubt is easily cast on it.
Instead of sending minutes of Genetic Resources Committee meetings, information about conferences and support possibilities to a select crowd, all this information should be presented openly to everybody interested by publishing the information in due time in the journal ARV & AVL (Inheritance and Breeding). (Enclosures 8 a, b, c).

Resource prioritisation
So far the resources of the Genetic Resources Committee have primarily been reserved for animal subsidies. So far this model may have  been the only one feasible because only few breeds have their own breeder association with a conservation scope; therefore, the best option for the Committee has been to support individual breeders with preservation-worthy animals. In a longer view it is probably not beneficial to preservation efforts that a patron-client relationship exists between the Government and the individual breeder. Cheating on the Government is a rooted popular tradition in Denmark, and therefore, among other things, it is important that the individual breeder feels responsibility towards colleagues and peers in an involved breeder association with a responsibility for the preservation and breeding of the individual breed. An involved breeder association will constitute the framework for the establishment of a professional environment which is far better than the one arising out of the contact between a governmental advisory office and the individual breeder. The Danish Landrace Goat Breeders Association is a good example of this.
Granting subsidies for major projects may be better that offering animal subsidies to small stocks of 2-3 animals. The best would be for small stocks to be motivated by idealism and enthusiasm for breed preservation just like people keep riding horses for the sake of their pleasure. Granting subsidies to individual animals may attract people speculating more in subsidies than in preservation and love for the breed, and it may result in reducing breeder associations to trade unions negotiating the size of the subsidies. To small breeders better conditions are far more important than subsidies.
If a model could be found to support and strengthen the interest organisations financially and professionally, it would be a good idea to give this matter higher priority in future. However, it is important to ensure that the result will not be the establishment of a small permanent group receiving a bag of money for internal distribution which may entice them not to attract new participants as that would mean more persons to share the same amount of money. Maybe subsidies could be granted in proportion to membership fees or similar activity parameters and as subsidies for individual projects with a future perspective in relation to animal preservation and distribution.

Who are the owners of the animals?
According to an old saying, we have borrowed the Earth from future generations. It would benefit the case if a similar understanding would spread among breeders of non-modern breeds ? that we have borrowed the old breeds from future generations and are responsible for nursing the animals during the time we are involved in breeding activities. A step in that direction could be a strengthening of the breeding associations of the individual breeds so that together with the individual breeders they will be responsible for plannng breeding activities and monitor that no breeding lines diasppear or dominate the population. If the individual breeder becomes a participant of a joint project on planning the future of the breed, it will create more continuity than what the individual breeder feels as a master of his own house with the power of life and death over his own animals.
If breeder associations are granted influence on the composition of new breeder groups etc. it will also invalidate the market mechanisms which now distribute the animals of the most productive, but not necessarily critical, breeder to the largest number of new breeders.

The professional discussion
We have not succeeded in putting genetic conservation on the agenda in breeder circles.
Generally, there is still a lack of consciousness between the difference between conserving phenotypes and genotypes, and the importance of conserving both genotypes and the genetic variation both generally and within the individual breeds.
However, this is something which not only the Genetic Resources Committee should be blamed for; there is a tradition where breeders are often organised in associations with sports and competition as the primary aim; a governmental Committee will never succeed in changing such a tradition in the anti-authoritarian Denmark. A new tradition must necessarily germinate from the ground among grassroots and preservation enthusiasts as it has happened in other countries.
Some herd books allow a certain interbreeding still within the official definition of straight breeding. As regards pigeons, fowls and other poultry breeds without flock books inbreeding is not an issue raising doubts at all among progressive breeders as this is the way that esteemed pioneers have always acquired results. Breeders stubbornly adhering to straight breeding of original breeds enjoy no particular esteem even though they are respected for their point of view. Therefore, it is of course difficult to avoid inbreeding in pure breeds when they lead isolated lives, and there is no "official" understanding of the difference between genotypes and phenotypes among breeder associations. (Enclosure 9)
In several instances the case of old breeds have become issues of organisational politics because the old breeder associations regard the old breeds as phenomena of the past or competitors to a modern highly improved breed which applies to dogs and pigeons among others. To those people the old breed will in certain instances represent all the qualities they have been fighting for a lifetime while improving the old breed towards a ”modern ideal”. The professional discussion furthering the understanding of the preservation worthiness of these non-modern animals surviving among fanatics or only outside the inner circles of the exhibitors has never been started.
Among many breeds, inbreeding is furthered by the breeding principles being cherished because they are rooted in a very selective and development oriented breeding where only a few super animals receive prizes or are selected for breeding in each generation whereas breed-typical individuals showing no ”progress” are excluded from breeding. In the cases where the selection is organised, the procedures of the breeding associations for selection and judgment are so cumbersome and costly, for example as regards dogs and horses, that this factor in itself is a great limitation of the number of persons even trying to get potential breeding animals through the eye of the needle.
The basic problems of getting the preservation work started at all have so far prevented a real opening of discussions on how to preserve and maintain the special qualities of the breeds.
The Convention on Biological Diversity emphasises, not without good reason, in-situ preservation. ”as regards domesticated or cultivated species shall take place in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties”. (Article 2)
However, the question is hardly raised if the animals preserve their resistance, frugality and other special characteristics under the conditions they are kept, such as for example:

Landrace Fowl as an example:
The Landrace Fowl is becoming a tragic example of the lack of consciousness as regards straight breeding and conservation of the genotype.
Around the end of the 19th century well-meaning breeders saved the old brown Landrace Fowl from the chaos starting to develop in Danish fowl runs where mixed breeds were spreading. At that time breeders were rather consistent and excluded ”new” colours.
This saving of an original landrace at a historically seen early time when the import of foreign fowl breeds had just started in 1880 was in itself unique.
Since then the Landrace Fowl has been on the brink of disappearing on several occasions; however, the original brown Landrace Fowl has, as the only one, survived every time. During the life of the present Special Club for Landrace, some breeders have developed ”landrace fowl” in new colours always through cross-breeding and often with fewer genes from the original Landrace Fowl than all other breeds. In the Special Club for Landrace Fowl some of the breeders have always had the understanding that the original brown Landrace Fowl was to be protected against interbreeding whereas the other colours were something developed for fun and for show purposes.
Today, however, several museums and breeders flying the conservation colours at full mast have purchased "Landrace Fowl in all colours" and mixed it all together "for that is what a fowl run looked like in the old days!" For demonstration of a historical fowl run, it may be all right; the problem, however, is that it is mentioned as genuine genetic conservation, and brood eggs and breeding animals are sold to everybody wishing to buy. To people without historical knowledge it leaves the impression of approval if the fowl is supplied by a ”gene conserving museum”, and often the story about ”the Special Club for Landrace Fowl only focuses on shows ? not genetic conservation” may be thrown in at no extra cost.
The truth is, however, that these breeders rewind the clock to a situation which is much worse than it was at the time of starting the conservation history of Landrace Fowl 100 years ago. The crossed animals they sell will primarily take up space at resolute people’s fowl runs who would like to contribute to conserving the Danish Landrace Fowl. In the long run it will gradually dilute the original genetic pool of the total population because the brown offspring from the mixed population will gradually be admitted into the genuine brown Danish Landrace Fowl.
The example of Landrace Fowl is not exceptional, and it is of course deeply frustrating to serious breeders who for years have protected purebred original stock to see their efforts being ousted and outdone by mixed fowl defined without reservations as genetic resources.
To people with a budding interest in participating in conservation work it is of course discouraging to realise that there are no clear boundaries defining which animals are genuine non-modern types worth conserving. New breeders will often experience meeting a breeder informing them that the animals they have acquired are worthless for one reason or another
All parties would probably feel better if it was accepted that several breeds exist in both an non-modern, original type and a more modern type better tuned for competition, shows or production. Separately, they can be all right and fulfil the requirements of their breeders, but they will not function together.

Question 3:
Which, in your opinion, are the strong and weak sides in connection with the entire Danish effort to preserve the genetic resources of old Danish breeds in the period starting in 1991 and ending in 2000?


Minor animals have been on a retreat during this period. An ever-increasing number of rules and regulations threatens to kill the whole culture we have about these breeds.
It is for example the requirement for CHR registration (sec: Central registration of domestic animals) and earmarking of even quite small flocks of sheep and goats.
Pigeons sold on markets or used for shows are subjected to vaccination requirements.
Registration requirements as a seller of fowl even if you just sell a small surplus of breeding animals to new breeders or colleagues; it means that you have to keep records of who you sold a single bantam or pigeon to and store the information for 5 years. The price of a prime individual of old Danish fowl varies between DKR 25 and 200 so breeders are actually forced to choose between giving up or circumventing legislation.
Prohibition against sale of surplus eggs from purebred fowl because you cannot obtain status as a salmonella-free stock prevents people from the fringe benefits which have traditionally accompanied a minor poultry keeping and contributed a little to fodder costs.
Established breeders will probably hang in and manage by circumventing the rules and regulations; however, the rules and regulations constitute a barrier to the natural recruiting which for generations has taken place at markets etc. Here new potential breeders met breeders and their animals under unobligating circumstances, maybe bought animals at reasonable prices and gathered their first experience as to breeding. During the period from 1991 till 2000, the new rules and regulations have crushed a century-old market tradition and reduced the populations as old breeders gradually withdraw from the scene.
Generally speaking, the rules and regulations represent overkill and do great damage seen in relation to their potentially beneficial effect.
When imposing too many rules and regulations and bureaucratic obstacles on animal husbandry conducted for non-commercial reasons, the population sizes will become too small for the breeds to survive in a longer perspective. Annoyance and inconvenience aroused by such frustrations among breeders cannot be compensated for by means of animal subsidies or other forms of financial support. In a highly regulated and bureaucratic society where the majority already feel overwhelmed by that type of obligations, extra bureaucracy in relation to keeping animals as a hobby will often be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. It means that breeders will quit or go over to incidental animals without contact to organised breeder associations because it will be easier to dodge registration and bureaucracy. (Enclosures 10 a, b, c, d, e, f, g)
The intended effect on prevention of diseases could be acquired with better results and without damaging effects through information on best practice in connection with breeding and marketing.

The greatest weakness in connection with the overall Danish efforts to preserve the genetic resources of old Danish breeds is the fact that the efforts were not launched within the context in which the animals and the breeders have to survive. One the one hand, information has been distributed on preservation of animals and attempts have been made to keep them; however, other authorities have simultaneously made it still more difficult and impossible to keep animals on a hobby basis because, in some instances, the same set of rules applies to the owner of large industrial animal factory and the owner of a flock of 10 bantams. The balance between these two development trends has unfortunately been very disproportionate and unfavourable to breeders and old breeds which will appear from the higher average age of breeders and decreasing population size of unfashionable breeds.

Ideally speaking, all animals should be registered, entered into stud books, herd books or flock books and participate in some form of organised breeding; it is, however, doubtful if all breeds will ever reach sustainable populations of fully registered individuals ? this applies for example to sheep, goats and dogs. In order to pave the way for broader participation, it is important that hobby breeders be given better general conditions so that, in addition to the well organised core, there will be a spare pool of unfashionable breeds with less documentation on paper.
In cases where still tighter veterinary rules make life difficult for small breeders, it should be considered if it would be possible to grant unfashionable breeds outside the scope of efficient production more lenient rules and regulations than those applying to industrial production animals raised for export.
As regards poultry, it could for example comprise permission to sell a minor quantity of eggs from own production without salmonella control and without jeopardising food safety. In turn, it could be relevant to prohibit the sale of industrial fowl to further egg production as the broken down fowl constitutes the greatest infection risk to the poultry keeping of hobby breeders when, after intensive egg production in large installations, their environment is suddenly changed to outside fowl runs.
In addition, hobby poultry keeping could be allowed the same veterinary standard as wild birds in relation to diseases such as New Castle Disease etc. In reality the contact between hobby poultry and wild birds is far more widespread than the contact between hobby fowl and production fowl.
It may be desirable to exert a certain selection pressure on the old breeds in relation to disease resistance as the potentiality of these breeds for future breeding purposes is more prominent within these characteristics than within production characteristics. Therefore, if a model could be developed allowing unfashionable breeds a less stringent life in terms of medical and veterinary protection, it would make life easier for breeders and maintain the genetic potentiality of the animals.

An example of Salmonella control
A poultry breeder in Northern Jutland had 24 fowls and 3 bantams of 3 different breeds. After the Salmonella deaths at Ejstrupholm where a family fell ill after eating raw eggs from fowls originating from a Salmonella-renovated commercial egg producer, the breeder enrolled for Salmonella control to be on the safe side.
Manure samples showed a certain infection and blood tests were to be taken from each individual fowl; the breeder tried to have each test tube marked with the ring number of each fowl to be able to identify the disease carriers; however, this was declined by the district veterinarian officer.
The result was that 7 fowls from the stock were infected, and the district veterinarian officer found the percentage to be so high that all fowls were to be destroyed. The breeder of course wanted to destroy the 7 infected animals, but it was not possible.
The procedure is quite unreasonable when applied to hobby breeders who may have been breeding with a pure-bred strain for half a lifetime and who will have his whole breeding destroyed because 7 of 24 individuals are disease carriers; the non-disease carriers have specifically proved their resistance by not being infected although staying in the environment.
The procedure may be reasonable when applied to a commercial egg producer because the individual fowls cannot be identified if the flock comprises thousands of individuals and has to be replaced when a certain percentage has been infected. The egg producer’s relationship to his fowls is purely commercial and can therefore be compensated in the form of money, whereas the hobby breeder, who does not even have a commercial interest, may have invested years of his life and much breeder pleasure, an effort which cannot be compensated in terms of money. The value of the old breeds can rarely be calculated in terms of money because their value is of a genetic, cultural/historic and affective nature.
To the breeder from Northern Jutland the experience meant that he will not have his new stock examined if he embarks on fowl breeding again.
The story is a textbook example of how it is unreasonable to apply the the same procedures to commercial farming and hobby breeders of non-modern breeds or the same control model if the obligations prescribed by the Convention on Biological Diversity are to be observed: ”respect, protect and conserve knowledge and practice found in local communities  with a traditional lifestyle of importance to the conservation of the biological diversity” (Article 8j).
As to Salmonella, a reasonable procedure could be to offer breeders suspecting disease a free test of each individual and then destroy the disease carriers ascertained. The result of the present procedure is that breeders do not utilise the testing option even when suspicious if they have a unique stock they have been working with for years or a breed not found in many other places in this country.

Question 4:
In which way do you think that efforts in Denmark to preserve the genetic resource of old Danish breeds can be strengthened in the future?


Conservation of the domesticated bio-diversity in domesticated plants and animals is in Denmark the most overlooked and least prioritised part of all the fields covered by the Rio Convention.
The Rio Convention recommends the countries to stimulate NGO (grassroot) participation in conservation of the old  breeds and varieties of cultural plants and to involve NGOs in the general conservation of the biological diversity.
The same recommendation has been repeated many times by FAO, The Nordic Gene Bank and the EU; in actual terms, however, it has gone the other way since 1992 ? it has become more difficult for Danish NGOs to participate in the work. (Enclosure 11)
It would undoubtedly be highly beneficial to the conservation efforts if biological diversity was seen in a wider perspective and in a greater context. The Convention on Biological Diversity expressly specifies that it also covers preservation of domesticated animals and cultivated varieties of plants, and that these efforts are to take place "in situ", meaning in the form of viable population sizes in the original environment and production system of the breeds.
FAO’s recommendations for the genetic variation comprise the total genetic variation and do not indicate that the individual countries shall only make limited efforts for the breeds produced by the countries themselves. The recommendations do prescribe that the countries shall make an extra effort for their own breeds.

Minor animal husbandry is part of our culture as an agricultural nation since ancient times. Today hobby breeders and not agriculturists are the ones keeping the old breeds alive because these animals are of no short-term interest to the modern, highly efficient agriculture.
If the intentions of the Convention on Biological Diversity were to be put into practice, life should be made easier for such breeders; however, the opposite has happened to a wide extent ? in spite of the beautiful wording and good intentions of the Convention, a whole culture is being suffocated.
The extention of the breeds is gradually being narrowed down to an ever diminishing group of older breeders who are hanging in because they have had the animals for a lifetime. However, the undergrowth of new breeders trying on their own and from which group new breeders of the old breeds are to be recruited is diminishing.
Unnecessary restrictions and bureaucracy makes it unreasonably difficult to start up almost unprofitable animal husbandries of breeds of low or no productivity which are largely part of a cultural activity.
Today it is easier to keep exotic pets in Denmark than to keep ordinary non-modern breeds, a development which is tragic in an old agricultural nation, and a development which is decimating the populations of old  breeds to levels which are not genetically sustainable, and disregarding our obligations pursuant to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Actually, there is a great potential for NGO participation as there are still many people who would like to keep various kinds of animals. They are often scared off, however, when confronted with the many rules and regulations applying to even a minor husbandry.
The international recommendations always formulate it in the way that NGO ”participation” is to be furthered; however, as regards small animals in particular, it is not a question of mere ”participation” in conservation efforts. The only conservation work being conducted "in-situ" is performed by the NGOs. This is not with the assistance and support of the authorities. On the contrary, the conservation work is carried out despite of the different obstacles established by these authorities.
Breeders of both plants and animals have predominantly gathered negative experience from governmental authorities, and the fine intentions of the Rio Convention are largely unknown ? or the fine words just make them smile.
Especially as regards small animals, proliferation and rearing of these breeds would benefit from deregulation excepting hobby husbandry from the rules and regulations making life difficult for breeders, and replacing control and denigration with information and cooperation.
As breeders of small animals often live in owner-occupied dwellings located in city districts, a general safeguarding of Danish citizens’ right to keep small animals such as poultry, rabbits, goats and sheep to a reasonable extent would be a great incentive to increase the number of breeders. This right is rooted in century-long traditions, but has been curtailed to an ever increasing extent over the last 20 years.
In certain places it is for example prohibited to keep cocks together with the hens or only one cock is allowed which makes serious breeding of a race almost impossible.
A general strengthening of the biological diversity of Danish domestic animals would primarily require improvements for all small breeders of non-industrial breeds. Otherwise, the small husbandry and breeder culture catering for the unfashionable breeds will disappear. The Rio Convention specifically mentions the importance of conserving the local culture sustaining the domesticated diversity and the need for adjustment of legislation and rules to benefit and preserve such cultures.
All countries are to:

"identify processes and categories of activities which have or are likely to have significant adverse impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and monitor their effects through sampling and other techniques
(Convention on Biological Diversity, Article 7 c)

" develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of the threatened species and populations"
"regulate or manage the relevant processes and categories of activities where a significant adverse effect on the biological diversity has been determined pursuant to Article 7"
(Convention on Biological Diversity, Article 8 k and 8 l)

"integrate consideration of the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources into national decision-making"
"adopt measures relating to the use of biological resources to avoid or minimise adverse impacts on the biological diversity"
"protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements"
(Convention on Biological Diversity, Article 10 a, b and c)

In a highly productive agricultural country like Denmark conservation of unfashionable breeds is particularly of cultural/historic importance. The animals may gain a productive importance under very changed production conditions, but it lies far into an uncertain future. The preservation efforts would therefore benefit from not justifying the conservation of the animals on grounds of agricultural production potential, but instead emphasise conservation of the animals’ original frugality, resistance and hardiness and let them become part of a more general effort to preserve the part of the Danish culture focusing on small-scale animal husbandry for self-sufficiency and leisure activity without having an eye to productivity measured in kg and Danish kroner. More emphasis should be attributed to the quality of life which this way of living entails for the individual and the importance this culture plays in keeping rural districts living and active, or to give people in the owner-occupied housing districts in the cities positive leisure activity contents. The basis of the small-scale farmer culture has to be nurtured to further the populations of the non-modern breeds.
It is important to integrate the preservation of non-modern  breeds in a larger context comprising preservation of the Danish farming and breeding culture, environmentally friendly cultivation, preservation of rural amenities and conservation of the diversity of wild plants and animals.
The Danish inclination to see the wild bio-diversity and the domesticated bio-diversity as separate issues should be revised. The extensive small-scale farms have a positive interplay with the wild bio-diversity which does not florish on the large intensively farmed agricultural areas. Much of the Danish flora and fauna has through centuries been adapted to an interplay with traditional cultivation and animal husbandry.
Therefore, a strengthening of efforts to preserve the genetic resources of Danish farm animals should start with the following:

  1. a deregulation removing rules impeding Danes in continuing the tradition of breeding non-industrial breeds.
  2. securing the citizens a general right to breed animals where they are domiciled.
  3. granting non-modern breeds preferential treatment until "in situ" populations have been propagated to sustainable sizes.
  4. yielding non-modern breeds special protection in case of outbreaks of contageous diseases among the livestocks of the industrialised farming.
For breeds or breeding lines existing only in Denmark there is for some a need for extra measures such as subsidies etc. which the Genetic Resources Committee has employed so far. Such incentives cannot stand alone, however, and cannot compensate for a general trend to impede and bureaucratise minor animal husbandry. If the foundation in the form of good and lenient rules for small breeders is in order, the number of breeders of particular Danish breeds will grow also without subsidies. For breeds with relatively high operational costs and very low productivity subsidies will probably always be necessary to keep the populations large enough.
The greatest problem in connection with the over all Danish efforts for preservation of genetic resources of domestic animals is the fact that there is no complete overview; no integration of bio-diversity considerations in legislation and rules affecting the area.

Enclosure 1:
a - Loci no.2-2001
b - Loci no.1-2001: International evaluation huups.
Enclosure 2: Hans Ranvig: The justification of conserving the Danish Landrace Fowl. 1997, 1999.
Enclosure 3: Heine Refsing: Old Danish pigeon breeds 1998.
Enclosure 4: Newsletter from Centre for Bio-Diversity no.  4-2000 (thematical and discussion issue)
Enclosure 5: Refusal from the Government’s Genetic Resources Committee.
Enclosure 6: Refusal from the Government’s Genetic Resources Committee.
Enclosure 7: Feature article in Fyens Stifstidende 29/1 2001: The fight for the old cattle.
Enclosure 8:
a - Danish Livestock’s member journal January 2001, p. 4
b - Danish Livestock’s member journal April 2001, p. 20
c - Danish Landrace Goat Breeders’ newsletter Feb. 2001 p. 5.
Enclosure 9: Letter to the editor in ”Flyveduebladet” (Flying Pigeons’ Journal)  no. 3 June 2001. Letter from Kim.
Enclosure 10:
a - Letter to the editor in the annual journal of Scottish Highland 1999 p. 38-39: Dancing around the BVD calf.
b - Letter to the editor in ”Racefjerkræ” (Journal of Danish poultry exhibition society) no. 2 1996 p. 35-36: We are making fools of ourselves
c - Letter to the editor in ”Racefjerkræ” (Journal of Danish poultry exhibition society) no. 2 1996 p. 36: Newcastle disease.
d - Editorial in ”Racefjerkræ” (Journal of Danish poultry exhibition society) no. 12 1996 p. 299: Understand it who can.
e - Letter to the editor in ”Raceduen” (Journal of Danish pigeon exhibition society) no. 4 1998 p. 74: Outbreak of Newcastle Disease
f - Letter to the editor in ”Raceduen” (Journal of Danish pigeon exhibition society) no. 11 1998 p. 238: Pigeon carrier.
g - Letter to the editor in ”Raceduen” (Journal of Danish pigeon exhibition society)  no. 12 1998 p. 272: Laughing stock.
Enclosure 11: Praktisk Økologi (Journal of Practical Ecology) no. 2 1997: Bio-diversity ? it’s a long way from Rio to Brussels.



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latest update December 2001.

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Center for Bio-diversitet is an independent NGO/CSO information-center. We aim to promote biological diversity and the protection and conservation of old and new varieties with valuable characteristics.

Editor: Heine Refsing