Worldlog Week 12 – 2010

26 March 2010

It was another week full of discussions and debates with the outgoing Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Gerda Verburg. Unfortunately, thus far completely fruitless, but we will battle on!

During question time in the Lower House, I debated with Minister Verburg about the unwillingness of the Dutch province of North-Bradant to accommodate high-rise pigpens or chicken factories. But the minister indicated earlier, in an interview with Dutch daily Trouw that the debate on mega-sized pigsties and other animal accommodation should not be conducted on the basis of emotion. I then asked her what emotions she could detect in the fact that the cattle-raising industry is responsible for intolerable animals diseases such as Q fever, the MRSA bacteria, avian influenza and swine fever. The minister answered that my entire perspective on the issue was one huge emotion…
The concept was not developed to improve the lives of animals, but rather to produce more efficiency at even lower cost. Hence the chance is even greater that any real and necessary measures to improve the life of animals will become even more distant than before. After all, stacking animals vertically in high-rises shuts the door completely to a kind of livestock raising that places the needs of animals first.

Further this week, Minister Verburg reversed a number of existing measures aimed at improving the living conditions of pigs in the pig-raising sector. This is an absolute outrage. Unfortunately, it was not possible to have the letter Verburg sent to the Lower House declared controversial. It was partly because Member of Parliament Dion Graus of the Party for Freedom and self-declared animal friend did not consider it necessary. He declared that his own rabbits at home also huddled up against one another in a corner and that animals certainly did not require more space than they currently have on farms currently. Unbelievable!

Already in 1998 it was decided that pigs should be treated better. The agreement at the time was that the animals should be given more space, be allowed to live in groups and that their floors should no longer be grill-covered. The pig farmers, however, refuse to invest in decent accommodation for their animals. The pig-farming sector should have implemented the improvements in 2008 but was granted a respite until 2013. The pig farmers are currently lobbying to have the Pig Decree scrapped and Minister Verburg seems to have a sympathetic ear for the sector’s pleas. She announced that the surface area standards, which would entitle pigs to a little more space, would definitely be cancelled.

This past week we also had a debate on the massive and illegal use of antibiotics in the poultry sector. In the Worldlog of week 10, I mentioned I had questioned Minister Verburg about this serious issue. Poultry farmers have a huge incentive to administer antibiotics as it allows them to produce at very low cost. Veterinarians are also financially rewarded as they are the party that supplies the antibiotics.

Verburg unfortunately refused to take any action against the antibiotic ‘cefalosporins’. The only small concession Verburg made is a promise to talk to veterinarians about the sale of antibiotics. In that discussion, she added her voice to the call of the Party for the Animals to ensure the ban is enforced. I remain very dissatisfied with the minister’s attitude and will continue my efforts to get the excessive use of antibiotics stopped once and for all!

I must share with you something that I came across last Wednesday. It is a Russian farmer that treats his cows in his cowshed to images of the Alps. It sums up the cattle-raising industry just perfectly.

Until next week, Marianne