Dutch Senate approves amendments to the animal law, farmers concerned
A new amendment to the animal law concerning pets and livestock was approved by the Dutch Senate last week, newspaper AD reported. The proposal suggests that, from 2023, these animals must be provided living conditions that resemble their natural environment. This could have consequences for farming systems, as well as for pet bunnies living in wooden pens in back yards.
The amendment to the law states that 'keeping animals in a certain farming system' - such as stables - may no longer be a 'reasonable purpose' for harming them. According to the law, pens, stables and cages in which animals are kept must be adapted to ensure they are given enough room to display their normal behavior. "A rabbit is now often alone in a pen, while they are actually very social animals. That also applies to parakeets and other birds, which naturally have a lot of freedom of movement," said Bas Rodenburg, professor of animal welfare at Utrecht University.
Parties in the Dutch parliament have raised concerns about the new law. VVD, CDA, SGP and BBB also fear disastrous consequences for livestock farming in the Netherlands. "Can we still walk dogs on a leash or should we give them the freedom to eat the neighbor's cat?" said CDA MP Derk Boswijk.
Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten said that her ministry is currently analyzing what the adopted law would mean in practice. According to Schouten, it is difficult to determine exactly what the natural behavior of animals is, potentially posing trouble for the enforcement of the law. "The law is worded very openly," she said.
The amendment to the law is a major victory for the Party for the Animals, which proposed this in the House of Representatives at the end of April. D66, PVV, PvdA, SP, Forum for Democracy, GroenLinks, JA21 and Volt, among others, supported the initiative.
"All ducks swim in the water," Party for the Animals MP Leonie Vestering said in quoting a well-known children's song. “But every year, more than eight million ducks in Dutch livestock farming have no bathing water, which means they cannot swim."
The legal formulation of the amendment is troubling for Dutch farmers. The new law could possibly imply that piglets' tails may no longer be cut off, calves and goats may no longer be dehorned and rabbits must be given a chance to dig in the ground. Farmers would also need to secure wallowing to pigs at all times.
"If you strictly implement this amendment, it will be the end of intensive livestock farming," Schouten warned in April.