Sunday 20 June 2021

New animal welfare legislation could ‘put end to intensive livestock farming’

Pigs on a factory farm. Photo:

New animal welfare legislation passed by the Senate last week could ‘put an end to intensive livestock farming’, an agriculture department source has told the AD, and may have consequences for pet owners too.

The new law, which was initiated by the pro-animal Partij voor de Dieren and will come into effect in 2023, stipulates that animals can no longer suffer pain or discomfort when kept in cages or stables, and must be able to display natural behaviour.

Agriculture minister Carola Schouten, who had earlier called the new rules ‘unworkable’, said in parliament on Tuesday that it is unclear what the law will mean in practice because it has been ‘loosely formulated’ and it is not easy to determine what constitutes ‘natural behaviour’.

However, VVD, CDA, SGP and BBB MPs and farmers organisations have voiced concerns that the new law could have far reaching for factory farming as well as pet owners, if strictly interpreted.

VVD MP Thom van Campen said that the new rules would hold livestock farmers ‘to ransom’ while pig farmers organisation POV said the parties ‘have not thought through what this could mean in practice’.

The new rules could mean, for example, that piglets, or calves, cannot be removed from their mothers before they are weaned.


Pet owners too may suffer the consequences of a strict interpretation of the law, opponents say.

According to professor of animal welfare Bas Rodenburg, the new law could well prohibit owners from keeping ‘a lonely rabbit in a hutch or a bird in a cage because these are social animals’. And if strictly applied the law means cats should be allowed to roam outside, he said.

PvdD leader Esther Ouwehand said Schouten and the livestock sector must now come up with a plan to put the law into practice. ‘For 20 years ministers have promised that natural behaviour would be key in livestock farming,’ she said.

Schouten announced she will now be working on ‘a legal analysis of the impact of the new legislation on keeping livestock and pets’  and will report on the matter before the summer recess. 

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