I can understand people might never want to hear the word ‘Oostvaardersplassen’ again after all the furore about this nature area but I rather liked the latest news item.
The Netherlands has a star system for meat sales. Animal protection society Dierenbescherming created this Better Life label to (in the words of its website) ‘make agreements with companies on more room for animals, fewer or no interventions that adversely affect animal wellbeing, and other improvements with the aim of getting more animal-friendly meat in the shops’. The system uses between one and three stars.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Oostvaardersplassen is a meat production company rather than a nature area. Under the right circumstances, the animals there are able to manifest their natural behaviour and the place would certainly deserve three stars — or perhaps even four as a new ‘outstanding’ category. It is understandable that neither Dierenbescherming nor any of the other organizations in the debate have drawn attention to the fact that having to cull 1800 deer will result in an awful lot of sustainably produced venison.
However, one group did notice this opportunity — consumers. The Oostvaardersplassen venison deals sold like the proverbial hot cakes on the web shop. Koopeenhert.nl was soon having to announce ‘Temporarily sold out’. Some of the meat is donated to food banks and the rest goes for between 25 and 30 euros per kilo. But as said, it is currently not available.
This situation might have been a problem politically but it has resulted in consumers who are prepared to pay for sustainable, locally produced meat. Perhaps Dierenbescherming deserves a couple of stars.
Guido Camps (34) is a vet and a postdoc at the Human Nutrition department. He enjoys baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.