Agriculture minister Carola Schouten on Friday called for calm following the news that roadblocks have been put up to prevent protesters from removing starving animals from the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve.
The right to demonstrate is part of the Netherlands, Schouten said in China, where she is on a trade mission. ‘But I don’t think there is any point in escalating the situation,’ the minister said, adding that talks will soon take place at a provincial level about what should be done about the reserve, where hundreds of animals have died of starvation.
A spokesman for the forestry commission Staatsbosbeheer told local broadcaster Omroep Flevoland the roadblocks, which were put up last week after a call went out to encourage supporters to ‘rescue’ the animals.
Jan vd Boschpad OVP de Vaart pic.twitter.com/iy77VvHXSK
— Martijn de Jonge (@Martijn57) April 12, 2018
They are not only meant to stop people with horse trailers getting through, he said. ‘They are also here to ensure public safety in general. We have had lots of demonstrations and that is why police and Staatsbosbeheer decided to block the roads going into the reserve.’
Over the Easter weekend, five people were arrested during efforts to feed the animals. Although the forestry commission initially refused to supply hay to the reserve, it later changed its mind and began emergency feeding.
The protesters have planned two events for the weekend. One is a silent march for the animals that have died and one is a convoy of cars carrying banners, the broadcaster said.
More than half the 5,200 deer, ponies and cattle living on reserve near Almere have died this winter – most of which were shot by forestry commission staff.
Most were shot because they were starving – over population has decimated plant growth and many animals had not been able to put on sufficient fat reserves for winter, the forestry commission says.
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