Alt-Right Picks Wrong Side in Dutch Farm Crisis
Dutch factory farming is bad for farmers and worse for animals. Big Ag benefits.
The international alt-right has picked the wrong side in the Dutch farm crisis.
Former American president Donald Trump, French National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, Danish climate-change sceptic Bjørn Lomborg and media like Breitbart, The Federalist, Fox News and The Spectator may think they’re backing the little guy against out-of-touch political elites, but they’re doing the bidding of Big Ag.
In Areo Magazine, I point out that the farmers protesting in the Netherlands are funded by three of the largest animal feed companies in the world as well as dairy and meat processors. They stand to lose the most from a reduction in livestock farming.
Too many animals emit too much ammonia
The Netherlands is the top meat exporter in Europe and the fifth-largest dairy exporter in the world. To produce so much meat, milk and cheese, it needs almost as many cows and pigs as people: 16 million. The country also has 100 million chickens and with it the highest livestock density in the world.
Animal manure is the Netherlands’ main source of ammonia pollution. In the EU, only Malta has higher emissions per hectare.
Manure can be used as fertilizer, but too much of it kills the very microbes in the soil that make it fertile. It also seeps into the groundwater, which farmers use to irrigate their crops and which Dutch people drink, causing eye and nose irritation and lung damage in people and animals.
Ammonia is especially dangerous to plants, insects and birds in conservation areas. The Netherlands has lost 70 percent of its insect population in the last thirty years. It has been in constant violation of EU protections for birds and habitats since those regulations were introduced in the 1990s.
Farmers struggle to keep their heads above water
Piecemeal reforms and technologies like air purifiers have reduced emissions by 65 percent from a peak in the 1990s.
To cut emissions further, the government has proposed to buy out or relocate one in three livestock farmers, or 11,000. Another 17,000 would need to downsize.