Science - April 30, 2010

Wageningen professors against intensive livestock farming

Over 150 professors from a range of disciplines are appealing to the government to drastically reduce intensive livestock farming. Among the signatories are 15 Wageningen professors.

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The Wageningen professors support the 'Appeal for sustainable livestock farming - and an end to organized irresponsibility'. The appeal was launched by Roos Vonk, Professor of Psychology at the Radboud University in Nijmegen and ex-chair of animal welfare organisation Wakker Dier. 'We, scientists from various disciplines connected with Dutch universities as professors/emeritus professors', write the campaigners on the website http://www.duurzameveeteelt.nl ,believe 'intensive livestock farming should be cleaned up and reorganized into an animal-, people- and environmentally friendly system that matches the needs and natures of all living beings'.
 Livestock industry
The appeal refers expressly to the findings of the Wijffels Commission, which targeted far-reaching changes in the livestock sector back in 2001. Since then, say the professors, we've been faced with Q fever, livestock-related MRSA, ESBL and the threat of an H5N1 pandemic. The effects of the livestock industry on greenhouse gas emissions have also become clearer. According to the professors, nothing has been done with the Wijffels Commission's recommendations. On the contrary, says the appeal, the sector has only gone on becoming ever more large-scale and intensive. 'Meat and dairy produce are unjustifiably cheap; the price is paid by animals, nature and the environment - and therefore by ourselves and future generations. The livestock industry leaves deep scars on our environment, biodiversity, world food supplies, human health and - above all - on animal welfare.'
Lemmings
Paul Struik of the Plant physiology and weed ecology chair group is among the signatories. 'As a plant physiologist, I have been infuriated by the fertilizer policy for years. We put far too many nutrients into the soil. It has always amazed me that we are rushing like lemmings towards disaster, whereas we all know that it cannot end well. There is no learning curve to speak of. Farms where there were culls a few years ago because of swine fever are now culling because of Q fever.'
Cycle principle
Until just before the appeal was published last week in the NRC Handelsblad, Tuur Mol of the Environmental policy chair group was among the potential signatories. He has since withdrawn his name. 'I object to one important point: the idea that you must produce with feed from your own region and must also sell your products, such as meat, locally. I support the cycle principle, but I think that it can also work on a global scale with sustainable feed from elsewhere, for example. The organization stuck to its guns on this point, and I cannot support it.'

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