Not to be outdone by the Canadian Freedom Convoy or America’s People Convoy, Dutch farmers formed a tractor convoy Wednesday to prove they can be just as nonsensical and destructive after they set up road blockades, dumped manure and garbage on roads and lit hay bales on fire in their wake.
That’s some serious shit. Roads in central and eastern Netherlands were blocked by tractor convoys and covered in poo, with some remaining closed even at the end of the day. Police said the clean up was taking longer as companies hired to help received violent threats over their efforts. From the Associated Press:
“We are doing everything to clear the roads but … some contractors are being intimidated,” Fleuren told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. He said it was not clear when all the roads would be fully cleaned.
“It is very extreme now that people are being threatened” for assisting the cleanup, he added.
Dutch media reported that at one location, a sign was left behind that said: “Sorry for the inconvenience, Rutte IV is driving us to despair,” a reference to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition government.
The farmers are angry at government targets for reining in emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia that they say threatens to wreck their agricultural way of life and put them out of business.
The government says emissions of nitrogen oxide and ammonia, which livestock produce, must be drastically reduced close to nature areas that are part of a network of protected habitats for endangered plants and wildlife stretching across the 27-nation European Union.
Police are investigating the incident while begging farmers to lay off the fecal flinging and fire setting as it’s dangerous to other Danes on the road. What stirred up Dutch farmers enough to soil the country’s roads? An invite from a government-appointed mediator to discuss with farmers the best way to reduce the country’s notoriously high nitrogen oxide and ammonia emissions. However the mediator, Johan Remkes was appointed by the country’s center-right Prime Minister and therefore is untrustworthy to the farther-right farmers.
Farmers say they are being unfairly targeted while airlines and other polluting industries are not being regulated. But farming is big business in the Netherlands; the country is the number one exporter of meat on the European continent and is often referred to as the “little country that feeds the world.” It also has the highest density on farm animals in Europe — over 100 million animals in a country smaller than West Virginia. All this animal husbandry has resulted in an overload of polluting waste that’s been a sore spot in the Netherlands for years.
In 2019, the highest court in the Netherlands found the country was breaking EU laws by not doing enough to curb runoff and air pollution near fresh water habitats. Last year, the government came up with a drastic €25 billion plan to reduce the number of cows in the Netherlands by a third, the Guardian reports. This plan would require some farmers to voluntarily give up farming, going for “extensive” farming where cattle graze on larger pastures than the current intensive style of farming.
We dig the Dutch here. Thousands threatened to throw eggs at Jeff Bezo’s Mega yacht if a historic bridge was dismantled to remove it and dock workers in the country sent back a tanker full of Russian oil. But this seems a rare miss from the little country that could. Just having access to enough manure to close major roads kind of implies that there is an excess of the stuff. Throwing trash on the roads when claiming to want time to come up with green farming techniques also seems to go against the main message. Not all farmers feel the same way. Some farmers told the Guardian their way of life is quickly changing anyway:
“We don’t have to feed the world, but we could show how to do it in a more sustainable way,” said organic dairy farmer Jaring Brunia, from Friesland in the north of the country.
Some farmers appeared more resigned to the changes, saying there was no future for intensive farming in the densely populated Netherlands. “We farm in the back yards of the city and everything is watched,” said dairy farmer Heleen Lansink-Marissen, from Haaksbergen in eastern Netherlands.
“We can’t fight for the past. We need a plan for the future and how to make money through biodiversity, carbon offsetting and a little bit less milk,” she added.
This is far from the first time European farmers have dumped dumps on the road in order to make a point. French farmers also let loose their animals’ waste in 2014. They did it again in 2019 when farmers angry about a trade deal with Canada dumped manure directly on the steps of lawmakers’ offices instead of roads used by everyone. That same year Dutch farmers used their tractors to shut down freeways leading to The Hague.