Reframing New Zealand’s Biosecurity Conversation Post-Covid-19: An Argument for Integrating Interspecies Concerns

Author: McDonald, D. A.
Published in National Security Journal, 24 August 2020

practices being in place for both species; some humans/cattle will remain asymptomatic whilst infected; and there are no reliable vaccination options for either disease. There are also some important differences between the two diseases and their management: M.bovis is non-zoonotic, and COVID-19 originates in animals; cattle are likely to haveM.bovis for life, whereas people may build up (limited) immunity to COVID-19;102 herd immunity is not possible for M. bovis, but it may be a possible strategy againstCOVID-19 through vaccination or recovery; and the goal is eradication for M. bovis(cattle are culled), yet the goal for COVID-19 is elimination (humans are ideally cured).

Figure 1: Comparative analysis between COVID-19 and M. bovis103Figure 1: Comparative analysis between COVID-19 and M bovis


COVID-19 highlights how the smallest of ‘unwanted organisms’ (a virus) can influence states’ leaders to quarantine the globe in a manner reminiscent of national animal bi­osecurity management (for M. bovis).104 Biosecurity practices being used to deal with infectious human diseases is a new phenomenon for New Zealanders; we are used to biosecurity measures being taken to quarantine animals and plants, but we are not ex­perienced with these being applied to ourselves. The lessons learned from the M. bovis biosecurity response have been partially credited for New Zealand’s swift and successful elimination of COVID-19.105 In turn, the learning gained from managing COVID-19 and its many impacts will help us to reconsider how animal biosecurity is understood