Thursday, December 16, 2021

Climate Change: The Netherlands cuts cows

The way kiwi farmers complain, you'd think their situation of being a country's largest polluters was unique and special. But its not. The Netherlands also has a problem with too many polluting farm animals. But unlike New Zealand, they're actually doing something about it:

The Dutch government has unveiled a €25bn (£21bn) plan to radically reduce the number of livestock in the country as it struggles to contain an overload of animal manure.

A deal to buy out farmers to try to reduce levels of nitrogen pollution in the country had been mooted for some time, and was finally confirmed after the agreement of a new coalition government in the Netherlands earlier this week.

But the plan, the first of its kind in the world, faces a huge backlash from farmers who have staged big street protests in recent years over the prospect of tough regulation and farmer buyouts. They fear permanent damage to food production in the country if too many farmers are forced to quit.

“We don’t want the system to collapse,” said Utrecht dairy farmer Marije Klever, from the Dutch young farmers’ union. She said farmers would oppose any nonvoluntary measures.

“I am a land owner, so a critical question is whether the government are allowed to push farmers out of the land. It can’t be The Hague telling farmers they must go, you need an agreement.”

While being lauded internationally as the “tiny country that feeds the world” and the continent’s biggest meat exporter, the Netherlands has been struggling at home with a pollution crisis caused by an excess of farm animals.

Which all sounds very familiar. The difference is a court order saying they actually need to cut pollution nationwide and a government finally willing to act on it by paying farmers to fuck off or de-intensify. While initially voluntary, there's the threat of legislation if not enough farmers are willing to stop polluting.

New Zealand's dirty farmers also pretend to be a "tiny country that feeds the world". But as Dutch MP Tjeerd de Groot says, "We can’t be the tiny country that feeds the world if we shit ourselves". We need to clean up our pollution, both nitrogen and methane, before we drown in it. And we can only do that by cutting cows.