Veal farmers angry at plans which could spell end of the industry

Calfs are a 'bi-product' of dairy farms. Photo:
Calfs are a ‘bi-product’ of dairy farms. Photo:

Veal farmers have reacted angrily to a report commissioned by the ministry of agriculture proposing far-reaching industry reforms, calling it ‘extreme’ and ‘far from realistic’.

The Netherlands is Europe’s main producer of veal, 90% of which is exported. Some 1.5 million calves are slaughtered each year, half of which come from dairy farms in the Netherlands. The rest are transported to the Netherlands in lorries from abroad.

The fact that national consumption is only 10% and a large number of calves are being imported ‘is putting pressure on the licence to produce’, said the report, a draft version of which was seen by broadcaster NOS.

And while much has improved, the use of too many antibiotics, bad calf health and the many deaths during long-haul transports have not been solved, the investigators said.

The report presents farmers with three possible scenarios, some of which will lead to ‘a smaller sector or even the abolition of the sector altogether and a changing role for calf farmers’, NOS quotes the report as saying.

In one scenario, specialised veal farms will be phased out altogether. The calves remain on the dairy farms, and will have access to fields and bigger stables before they are transported for slaughter. Imported calves will have to be reared under the same circumstances and long distance transports will also be banned.

In the second scenario, calves will stay on the dairy farm for at least three months – it is currently two weeks – before being transported to specialist veal farms. In this scenario the industry will shrink considerably.

The third scenario proposes a ‘regional chain’ meaning transport distances between dairy farm and veal farm will not be longer than 100 kilometres. This effectively spreads the industry and limits imports in the border regions to neighbouring countries.


Farming group LTO Nederland said in a reaction the proposals are ‘an exercise in extremes which ignores the economic impact not just on the veal industry but the dairy industry as well.’

The report, put together by three independent bureaus, the ministry of agriculture and environmental assessment agency PBL, will be sent to parliament at the end of the month, a spokesperson for caretaker minister Carola Schouten told NOS.

The matter is deemed controversial so any decision will not be made by the outgoing government.

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