Ethical Decision-Making in Zoonotic Disease Control : How Do One Health Strategies Function in the Netherlands?

Herten, Joost van; Buikstra, Suzanne; Bovenkerk, Bernice; Stassen, Elsbeth


To tackle zoonotic disease threats, a One Health approach is currently commonplace and generally understood as an integrated effort of multiple disciplines to promote the health of humans, animals and the environment. To implement One Health strategies in zoonotic disease control, many countries set up early warning systems, in which human and veterinary health professionals cooperate. These systems, like the Dutch Zoonoses Structure, can be successful to detect emerging disease threats. However, these systems are not well equipped to handle moral dilemmas that can arise in zoonotic disease control, like the culling of healthy animals. This research studies the role of normative presuppositions of professionals involved in zoonotic disease control policies in the Netherlands. We found that these professionals in general adhered to a holistic view of the One Health concept, however, in practice an anthropocentric approach was dominant. Public health was identified as the trumping moral value, which reveals an inherent field of tension with the core of One Health thinking. The lack of ethical expertise in control systems for zoonotic diseases can lead to misconception of ethical principles, like the precautionary principle which is frequently evoked to justify disease control measures.