Minister to investigate health effects of animal feed plans after farmer protests

Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture will have experts look into the possible health effects of reducing protein in animal feed, in response to "concerns in the sector", she said in a letter to parliament. "Animal health is also a starting point for me that should not be altered and that is why I understand the concerns that farmers have about this," the Minister said.

Schouten plans to ban the adding of protein to animal feed from September. Farmers add protein to cattle feed as concentrates, but it also results in cattle releasing more nitrogen. The government is trying to lower nitrogen emissions so that there is more room for home and road construction. 

Farmers have been protesting against this measure for more than a week, blocking highways and distribution centers, showing up at an environmental activist's house with their tractors, and forcing Schouten to cut short a working visit to Zeeland. According to the farmers, this measure comes at the expense of animal welfare.

Schouten remains convinced that farmers feed their cattle more protein than is necessary. "The excess protein is not absorbed by the animal, but is emitted in the form of ammonia. That is widely endorsed in the sector and science," she said in her letter to parliament. But given the farmers' concerns, she will have experts look at the matter. "If this shows that additional animal health risks are to be expected, I will adjust the regulation accordingly."