The social costs of maintaining the current Dutch livestock sector are higher than the benefits. This is according to a study by the research agency Ecorys.
According to scientists from Wageningen University, our country is the second largest agricultural exporter in the world after the United States, followed by Germany, Brazil and China. And this is very remarkable: agriculture in general requires a lot of land, while the Netherlands is about nine times smaller than Germany, more than 200 times smaller than Brazil and more than 32,000 times smaller than China.
120 million animals on that tiny piece of land
According to figures from Statistics Netherlands, last year there were 12 million pigs, 3.8 million cattle, 2.5 million cows, more than 1 million goats and sheep, at least 100 million chickens and at least 1 million minks. Taken together, our livestock is about 120 million animals, which live with us on that very small piece of land.
With these numbers, it is not surprising that the Netherlands has the highest density of livestock in the world. This has serious consequences for the climate, the health of the people who live near the livestock farms and the surrounding nature. In other words: Dutch livestock comes with the necessary costs.
Less cattle produce more
Environmental organization Greenpeace was curious about the exact costs of the livestock sector and called up Ecorys some time ago. The agency set out to work and came to the conclusion that reducing the Dutch livestock population by 75% on a balance basis leads to economic gains.
The costs involved will total €26 billion in ten years, equivalent to €2.6 billion annually. This includes funds to purchase ranchers and investments in land restoration.
However, the social benefits are much higher, Greenpeace’s Held-Anna de Vries told Omrup Gelderland, based on the Ecorys study: “Current livestock farming costs us a lot of money, in 2018 alone it was about 5.5 billion euros in community costs. …and these will only increase if we do nothing. This makes investing 2.6 billion euros a year a good investment.”