DUTCH PROFESSORS JOIN FORCES AGAINST FACTORY FARMINGThis is a summary and press report. The complete essay can be downloaded as a pdf file here.
The Dutch factory farming industry should be fundamentally reorganized and transformed into a system that meets the needs of all living beings and protects our environment. This is stated by more than one hundred full professors in a 12 page essay leading up to a simple conclusion: Reduce livestock, eat less meat and dairy products. This conclusion is accompanied by 10 recommendations, mostly directed at the Dutch government, to help realize a sustainable farming industry.
The professors have joined a debate that in recent years has been gaining intensity by a growing awareness of the threats of factory farming to public health, nature and environment, climate, and animal welfare.
In 2001, an independent, broad advisory committee recommended several measures to structurally change the large Dutch livestock industry. These recommendations were adopted by the Ministry of Agriculture at the time, and plans were made to execute them fully before 2010. In 2002, however, a new government was installed, after which none of the recommendations were carried out.
The Netherlands is the second export country in the world of meat and dairy, whereas the country is far too small to carry the environmental damage produced by large-scale livestock industry, such as the manure surplus. The country has more pigs than people, and they lead miserable lives in large crowded barns that consumers never see: production of meat and dairy products has been industrialized and enhanced to the extent that consumers have become estranged from the process of how their food is produced.
The agricultural lobby in parliament has so far succeeded in countering widespread attacks on livestock farming, such as the citizens’ initiative 'Stop Wrong Meat' in 2007. In defense of the existing system, it is often said that the Netherlands cannot do much because this is a European matter. However, the professors argue, because of the disproportionate size of its livestock industry, the Netherlands should take the lead in Europe, to stimulate sustainable and animal-friendly farming.
Contributions to the plea were written by 105 full professors from different Dutch universities and different fields of expertise. They have joined forces and expertise to promote a critical evaluation of why the 2001 recommendations were never carried out, even though many of the current problems and threats were foreseen at the time, and to encourage the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture to start taking measures to protect animal welfare, the Dutch landscape, national health, and the future of coming generations and of global food supply.
The essay is on the Dutch website www.duurzameveeteelt.nl (sustainable livestock farming) which is attracting many visitors and supporters signing the plea. Initiator Professor Roos Vonk, psychologist of Radboud University, was disappointed with the response of the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Gerda Verburg: “She said she could not listen to every ‘protest group’ and that we were misinformed. Apparently, she did not realize that more than 100 professors, many with relevant expertise, have been working on this essay since February. I was shocked to hear this, coming from a minister who is responsible for letting Q-fever and ESBL threat get so out of hand. I do hope our initiative will resonate in other ways, because the need for change is urgent.”