Livestock farming in the Netherlands has been criticized for its heavy reliance on external inputs, according to the Dutch Minister for Nature and Nitrogen Policy, Christianne van der Wal-Zeggelink. Speaking at the Global Conference on Sustainable Livestock Transformation in Rome, organized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), van der Wal-Zeggelink highlighted the country’s significant expansion in agricultural production, particularly in the livestock sector. While the Netherlands has achieved high meat and milk outputs, the minister acknowledged that this has come at a cost to the environment, with the country producing “unwanted output that the environment just cannot handle”.
During a high-level ministerial discussion at the FAO headquarters, van der Wal-Zeggelink emphasized the challenges of hunger and climate change on a global scale. She acknowledged that the Netherlands, with its efforts to buy out farmers in order to reduce nitrogen emissions, may seem privileged in terms of food security. However, she stressed that the country’s environmental problems require urgent action, not only due to European laws but also out of a sense of responsibility.
Van der Wal-Zeggelink further outlined the over-dependence of Dutch livestock farming on water, fertilizers, plant protection, and imported feed, often at the expense of forests. She emphasized the need for a transition to sustainable livestock farming that operates within the boundaries of the Earth’s resources. This transition, she argued, should also involve a shift towards a diet that incorporates more plant-based protein. The minister highlighted a range of global challenges, including extreme weather events, air and water pollution, and biodiversity loss, which necessitate immediate action.
Addressing the difficulties and protests faced by farmers during the transition, van der Wal-Zeggelink noted that progress is being made. The Netherlands has implemented a national program to protect water and soil quality and is gradually reducing nitrogen emissions. While acknowledging that there are no easy solutions, the minister emphasized the importance of international collaboration in achieving a sustainable food system. She stressed that climate change and environmental issues transcend borders and require collective efforts. Despite the challenges, van der Wal-Zeggelink assured that the Netherlands remains committed to the transition to a more sustainable future.