The liberal democratic party D66 has suggested reducing the population of Dutch livestock by half in order to lower nitrogen emissions. Agriculture minister Carola Schouten and coalition partner CDA do not support the proposal – which would reduce the number of chickens in the Netherlands by fifty million and the number of pigs by six million – on the grounds that it is ‘unrealistic’ and ‘inappropriate’.

Reducing nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands has remained a high political priority since the Council of State ended the Nitrogen Approach Program, halting thousands of construction projects near nature reserves including new homes and roads.

D66 MP Tjeerd de Groot told RTL Nieuws that 70% of Dutch nitrogen emissions come from agriculture – especially livestock farming – yet the contribution of intense livestock farming to the Dutch economy is less than 1%. De Groot proposes offering a choice to farmers which would afford financial government assistance toward either the switch to circular farming or toward the discontinuation of livestock farming altogether.

De Groot reportedly claimed that the Netherlands produces too much meat, stating “We are the second biggest exporter of farm produce in the world behind America but we live in a country the size of a stamp. The damage to nature is far too great.’”

CDA party chairman Pieter Heerma reportedly calls the nitrogen problem “big and complex” but says the D66 proposal is not realistic because livestock farming is paramount to the Dutch economy, adding, “no farmers, no food.”