It's actually to do with shit, and a radical new plan aims to deal with it for the benefit of the environment.
The Netherlands has announced a multi-year €25 billion plan to drastically reduce its livestock numbers 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 has now finally been confirmed by the new coalition government. The plan is the first of its kind in the world.
While being lauded internationally as the “tiny country that feeds the world” and Europe's biggest meat exporter, the Netherlands has been struggling at home with a pollution crisis caused by an excess of farm animals. “We can’t be the tiny country that feeds the world if we shit ourselves,” said MP Tjeerd de Groot, from the Democrats 66 party, which is part of the coalition government in the Netherlands.
The country has the highest density of livestock in Europe – more than four times that of the UK or France – with more than 100 million cattle, chickens and pigs in total. The animals produce manure which, when mixed with urine, releases ammonia, a nitrogen compound. If it gets into lakes and streams via farm runoff, excessive nitrogen can damage sensitive natural habitats. And it is.
The highest Dutch administrative court found in 2019 that the government was breaking EU law by not doing enough to reduce excess nitrogen in vulnerable natural areas, due to farming and industrial activities. So the new government is taking brave and drastic action which, in the end, should be of benefit to farmers, the planet, and the Dutch environment.
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