Animal cruelty in Dutch animal agriculture and why this also concerns people outside the Netherlands
Carnists often defend the consumption of animal products by saying animal agriculture is doing pretty well and isn’t cruel. Cases of animal abuse are considered to be rare occurences. In the Netherlands this argument is often used, as the Dutch agricultural sector is considered to be one of the best in the world, with relatively strict laws. As I will explain below, the conditions in Dutch animal agriculture are not exactly great, with many illegal practices.
Why does this concern people outside of the Netherlands?
After the United States, the Netherlands exports the most agricultural products in the world. 82 percent of exports go to other EU countries, but there are also many countries outside the EU that import food from the Netherlands. In 2015, the Netherlands exported 1.6 billion euros worth of living animals, 6.8 billion euros of meat, 1.8 billion euros of fish, 6 billion euros of dairy and 0.2 billion euros worth of other animal products. Therefore, especially in the EU, there is a good chance your supermarket sells meat, fish or dairy from the Netherlands. Germany and the UK import the biggest share of Dutch agricultural products, but other EU countries import these products as well. Sometimes this can even have dangerous consequences. For example, in the summer of 2017 it was reported that sausages with hepatites E from Dutch animals were sold in the UK and had contaminated tens of thousands of Brits.
In addition, as the Netherlands is supposed to have the best regulations and is supposed to be at the top of animal welfare in animal agriculture, the fact that it’s still doing so poorly and that laws are systematically ignored and broken can only imply that most other countries are likely doing even worse.
Animal agriculture in the Netherlands
While there are plenty of people who are proud of Dutch animal agriculture, research shows that the laws they are so proud of are regularly broken. For example, in 2013 farmers in animal agriculture broke the law 2.7 billion times, with 500 million animals becoming the victims of these practices. While accidents can happen, 2.7 billion illegal activities are a problem caused by more than just ‘a few bad apples’. In addition, this research did not include other illegal activities, such as those at slaughterhouses, manure processing plants and the transportation of animals, which are regularly mentioned in the news. While of course many of these problems are not mentioned in the news (or else the newspapers would be full with animal agriculture related news every day), it’s not like these problems are never mentioned in the media. That’s also why it’s so surprising that there are still people who believe animal cruelty and animal agriculture related scandals only occur in other countries like the United States. Just to give an impression of what kind of things do happen here, I made a list of news items from the final three months of 2017. All news items in the list are things that most carnists and even farmers would agree should not happen, such as the neglect and abuse of animals, stables burning down (a regular occurence as farmers are not obliged to have sprinklers or to take other preventive safety measures), and manure fraud (which is very common here, as the Netherlands has more animals than most countries and produces incredible amounts of manure).
2 October: A truck with 200 pigs fell sideways on the motorway. Some of the pigs did not survive the accident and others wandered around squalling for quite a while.
2 October: The NVWA (similar to the FSA in the UK) and the police arrested two farmers and three workers from a manure processing company for fraud.
3 October: One in three of the checked mink breeders is illegally extending their business and keep more minks than allowed.
4 October: Severely neglected cows and sheep were found at a farm. There were also several dead animals laying around and those that were still alive were covered in manure, wounded and starving.
5 October: After checking 18 slaughterhouses for chickens, the NVWA concluded that the majority were not clean and that hygiene standars have deteriorated. This meant that most of the meat was contaminated with bacteria that were not supposed to be on the meat and also animal welfare standards were not always followed.
6 October: The infamous Adriaan Straathof, the owner of many large hog farms in Europe who is no longer allowed to have farms in Germany because of severe animal cruelty cases at his farms there, got permission to enlarge one of his farms in the Netherlands.
10 october: At a hog farm 70 pigs died because the ventilation stopped.
13 October: Avian flu was discovered at a chicken farm so all the 41.500 chickens were killed.
19 October: Supermarket Coop warns for safety concerns with eggs of certain dates.
20 October: Ammonia emissions from milk cows and goats continue to increase.
21 October: A farmer was fined for neglecting his sheep, as the sheep were very skinny, crippled, and did only have access to a small amount dirty water and food.
22 October: Four cows got hit by a train
23 October: Two cows got hit by cars and had to be killed because of the wounds.
23 October: People protested against the plan of enlarging a goat farm with 700 extra goats. Eight neighbours say they already have severe lung problems because of the pollution from the 1300 goats that the farmer already has.
24 October: Some farmers illegally hunt on birds of prey.
26 October: Six companies dealing with the processing of manure are suspected of fraud and breaking environmental laws.
27 October: Two other manure processing companies were discovered to commit manure fraud.
6 November: 500 pigs died when a stable burned down.
7 November: The Reclame Code Commissie (an organisation that looks for misleading advertisements) concludd that the website vlees.nl (vlees = meat, a website from the animal agriculture sector) contains at least 51 misleading statements about pork.
8 November: The director of REcycling Netherland B.V. and Enorgha B.V. got sentenced to 1,5 year in prison and a fine for fraud with, among other types of rubbish, manure.
10 November: A big new research shows that manure fraud is very common and farmers, drivers and manure processing companies all work together to do this. In the Southeast of the Netherlands two thirds of manure processing companies have been convicted or are suspected of this crime.
10 November: A farmer has been arrested for neglecting his animals. His cows were starving and several dead cows were found on his property.
11 November: According to some GP’s manure fraud and the illegal dumping of manure contributes to lung problems in areas with a lot of farms. GP’s who try to bring this into the open are sometimes intimidated and threatened.
13 November: The water board in Limburg says that manure fraud contributes significantly to local water pollution.
14 November: Because of an administration mistake, Aldi sold factory farm chicken with a certificate on it that is for non-factory farm chickens who live in better conditions
15 November Five calves died and others got wound at a stable fire.
15 November: A farmer got a fine and a warning after several checks throughout the year had shown that he continues to neglect his animals. Goats, sheep and rabbits were starving and living in big piles of manure. There were also some dead sheep on his property.
16 November: Two cows fell into piles of manure in the cellar.
18 November: People protested against plans for a new factory farm.
19 November: There was a fire in a stable, but luckily all animals could be saved in time.
20 November: A cow fell into the manure cellar.
21 November: Research from Wakker Dier shows that of the 550 million farm animals that are bred in the Netherlands every year, about 32 million of them die prematurely because of unnatural conditions such as stress and dehydration.
23 November: A hog farmer got convicted for severely neglecting his hogs. The situation was so bad that a vet had to euthanise ten animals immediately and there was already a dead hog in the stables that had partly been eaten by the other animals.
23 November: The listeria bacteria was found in a specific brand of bacon.
24 November: Several pigs got wounded and had to be killed after a fire in a stable.
28 November: The owner of manure processing company BioSpares was convicted to twelve months in prison for illegally dumping manure.
2 December: Worried people ask the local government in Brabant to reduce the number of farm animals because they say it has caused severe health problems in the area.
4 December: The owner of a slaughterhouse got a 3000 euro fine because at two checks it turned out the slaughterhouse was processing wounded cows, which is illegal and now it has still not stopped doing this.
4 December: Two animal traders got fined for transporting sick and wounded cows to slaughterhouses. One cow even had an open wound that showed the animal’s bone, which was ‘closed’ with paper and duct tape.
4 December: EU subsidies have given farmers incentive to steal pieces of public land at the edge of their own land by cutting down trees and removing grass and other plants and then start using it themselves, meaning they can apply for subsidies for a larger area of land.
5 December: The prosecutor of the 4th of december trial against the transporting and slaughtering of sick and wounded cows states that he thought it was ‘very strange and worrying’ that the people involved in this case talked about it as if this was completely normal to do. He also stated that even when employees do check the animals properly, it can’t be helped that the average slaughterhouse accidentally processes at least 120 sick cows every year.
5 December: Two meat checkers have come out as anonymous whistleblowers, stating that many illegal practices happen in slaughterhouses. Employees would cut off weird-looking pieces of meat so that the meat checkers could still approve of corpses that were clearly sick or wounded (and thus illegal to process further). They said it’s also normal to leave bits of poop on the meat and that many vets and meat checkers are threatened and intimidated if they don’t comply with these practices.
5 December: One hundred pigs died in a stable fire.
6 December: A pregnant cow fell into the manure cellar.
6 December: The owner of a chicken slaughterhouse has taken the NVWA (the Dutch FSA) to court because he feels the NVWA has not treated him fairly. Although he admits that he received 1 million euro worth of fines for things that indeed were illegal, he feels like the NVWA mistreated him by doing much more thorough inspections at his slaughterhouse compared to others, thereby giving him a disadvantage against competitors.
7 December: At a farm several cows fell through the floorboards.
7 December: New research shows that more than half of all the pigs in the Netherlands have severe stomach problems such as ulcers, bleedings and holes in the stomach, caused by stress and bad food.
7 December: New undercover videos from Animal Rights show that minks at mink farms are thrown around treated unnecessarily harsh.
8 December: Avian flu was discovered at a duck farm. All 16.000 ducks are killed and all other birds at other farms have to stay indoors for the time being.
8 December: A farmer has been charged with neglecting his animals. Since 2010 the NVWA has tried to help him improve his stables and giv his animals the care they need but not much has improved since. The stables are extremely dirty, the animals starving and the cows had udder infections. He had also threatened and hit the NVWA inspectors earlier this year.
10 December: At a stable fire 22 calves died and the majority of the 170 cows suffered burn wounds..
11 December: The roof of a stable with hundreds of calves almost collapsed. Luckily the fire department came to the rescue just in time.
13 December: Veal producer Van Drie has been charged with misleading information on their website. The website says the calves stay with their mother for a few days after birth, that calves are never housed individually and that white veal is not caused by anemia. All these statements turned out to be falls and the company has to change the text on the website.
14 December: The NVWA warns that food fraud is quite common, especially with animal products, such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs.
15 December: A farmer got charged with neglecting his animals. Two dead cows and a dead calf were found on his property. Other animals were starving and barely had any space, light or fresh air.
19 December: 17 scheep and 8 cows were taken away from a farmer because of severe neglect.
20 December: Plans for a factory farm were cancelled after protests from individuals in the area and environmental protection organisations. the permit has been retracted as the plan did not confirm to all the provincial regulations.
20 December: New undercover footage from Ongehoord at 9 egg farms, most of them labelled organic, shows that the animals were severely neglected. In all farms there were many severely pecked chickens and also many dead chickens laying around that had clearly been dead for a while. In one stable there were even several hundred dead chickens.
21 December: 19.000 turkey chicks died during a flight from Canada to the Netherlands because the temperature on the plane was too low. The 180 chicks that did survive were in such a bad state that they were killed upon arrival.
21 December: A farmer has been convicted to four months in prison for neglecting his calves. At several inspections it was clear that many of the calves were ill and the farmer was urged to have them treated by a vet, but the farmer continued without doing anything.
22 December: In the first half of 2017 18 manure processing companies were charged with fraud of which 16 got a conviction. In addition, 1316 fines were given for manure fraud to other companies.
22 December: A judge has decided that farmers in South-Holland are not allowed to shoot 6500 ducks, as their plan is not convincing.
22 December: 8 bulls and a cow were shot because they were so severely neglected that they had become very agressive and beyond help. Seven other cows were taken to another farm. According to the NVWA there was unsufficient water and food at the farm and they lived in dirty stables with dangerous sharp items in there.
23 December: Two cows, two pigs and 56 chickens were taken away from a farmer because of neglect.
25 December: At a stable fire several chickens died, but luckily the majority of the animals could be saved.
29 December: A hog farmer has to compensate three neighbours with money for the incredible amount of bad smelling air coming from his stables.
30 December: Aldi warns some of its chicken has been contaminated with the listeria bacteria.
CBS cijfers 2015