"It's not a Swine Fever, it's a Fence Fever!" - The Proliferation of Animal Health Borders in Contemporary Europe

Authors: Larissa Fleischmann*, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Topics: Political Geography, Animal Geographies, Europe
Keywords: borders, animals, health, viruses, African Swine Fever, more-than-human geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Animals and viruses set in motion powerful bordering processes. This is strikingly illustrated in the context of African Swine Fever, currently framed as the most threatening global animal disease of the 21st century. The highly infectious virus, also known as "Pig Ebola", is deadly for domesticated pigs and wild boars. In this paper, I focus on the dominant response to this animal disease throughout Europe: the erection of fences along national borders. In 2019 and 2020, many European states, such as Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium and Bulgaria, erected hundreds of kilometres of fences in order to keep out ‘unwanted’ border crossers of a nonhuman kind: wild boars who are framed as disease reservoirs that could pass the virus over to pigs in national factory farms. One of my interlocutors, a veterinary who has conducted research on animal diseases for decades, strikingly characterized the current situation in Europe as follows: “It’s not Swine Fever, it’s a Fence Fever!”. Drawing on these recent examples, I make the case for an inclusion of viruses and animals in the study of borders. I argue that a more-than-human approach to bordering processes can contribute to an ontological opening of the agenda of border studies beyond an anthropocentric scope.

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