MAASTRICHT. The forensic piglet research by a Maastricht PhD candidate in a pond in North Holland, will be discontinued. The Twiske-Waterland recreation organisation has decided to terminate the project because it doesn’t fit to their goals.
The piglet research came under scrutiny after a YouTuber recently posted a short film on his video channel. He had discovered a number of dead piglets in cages, underwater in the Stootersplas. Social media ran riot with threats directed at the scientist Marco Pot. He is doing his PhD with Wilma Duijst, appointed to the endowed chair of Forensic Medicine and Criminal Health Law at Maastricht University, and is investigating underwater detection. The dead piglets were used to model the decomposition of infants and young children, so that it would become possible to establish the time of death of small bodies found in water with greater accuracy. In a previous interview with Observant, Pot said that the animals had died from natural causes. The cages are located at a depth of eleven metres and one hundred metres from the edge of the pond. The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority had given its approval for the project; people need not fear that they could become sick after swimming in the water, said Pot.
The national upheaval “reached” the general board of the Twiske-Waterland recreation organisation, says a spokesperson. “They looked into it seriously and concluded that the research doesn’t fit. The Twiske is a recreation area which people visit for recreation.”
Three years ago, the Twiske-Waterland recreation organisation had agreed to an underwater park “that would also be used for scientific research,” Pot now says. Later on, when he gave them the details of the type of activities, they did not raise any objections. In addition, Noordhollands Dagblad published a story about this “underwater Sherlock Holmes” and his “forensic research under water with piglet carcasses” in January 2018. What Pot is saying, is that what he did was known, why does the recreation board now suddenly say it has a different policy?
The PhD candidate would like to continue his piglet research for another two years. If that is not possible, he hopes to be able to continue at another location, as was informally suggested by the programme manager of the recreation organisation (“I still haven't heard anything from the general board,” says Pot). But then all conditions will need to be met, “this location is representative of Dutch waters, it's freshwater and we can work at great depths without disrupting factors such as currents, shipping traffic and dumping”.
Should everything go awry, Pot will consider taking legal steps.