The Animal Protection Foundation’s delta plan for Animal Husbandry is a good point of departure from which to make the Dutch cattle farming sector more sustainable, says Imke de Boer.
The WUR professor of Animal Production Systems feels that the Animal Protection Foundation’s views should be integrated in a delta plan for the entire food system.
The Animal Protection Foundation has recently drawn up a Delta Plan Livestock Farming, in which the foundation outlines four paths of transition for the livestock sector. The plan envisions livestock farmers holding robust animals, each of which has access to paddocks or meadows; and that farmers are paid a better price for their meat, eggs and milk. It also envisions farmers collaborating in short chains, and supplying only high-quality products for the North-Western European market.
Focus on the animal
These are sensible principles, according to Imke de Boer. ‘Livestock farming should focus on the animal, and the farm should be adapted to the needs pf the animal. In reality, the opposite is often the case. Furthermore, I agree with the Animal Protection Foundation that European consumers should alter their diet. Our research shows that a diet containing two-thirds plant-based proteins and one-third of animal-based proteins makes the most effective use of natural resources.
The main question is: how do you challenge consumers to follow that diet, how do you charge for environment, biodiversity and animal welfare and who sets up an economic system that allows for such a charge? Do farmers require market protection? I think these questions need answers in an overarching delta plan for the entire food system.’’
Low production price
Her colleague Eddie Bokkers of the chair group Animal Production Systems agrees. ‘It is good that the Animal Protection Foundation seeks to connect with partners through this integral plan. Welfare is an important issue that should be included in the designs for circular agriculture. The focus should not be just in the ecological aspects of sustainability. Although some farmers and stable systems already make this possible, most farmers are unable to take these steps as long as the food system focusses on keeping the production cost as low as possible.
Room to manoeuvre
According to De Boer, a delta plan for the entire food system is needed. This plan should include long term environmental manoeuvring room for levels of phosphate, greenhouse gasses and nitrogen. In this plan, the government should lay down a social foundation for our food system, which includes aspects of animal welfare. ‘Only thus can safe and fair freedom of action be created for food production’, says De Boer.