Farmers reacted angrily to claims that they were largely responsible for a spiralling nitrogen emissions problem. Tractor-driving farmers took to the streets to demand greater recognition have caused the worst ever Dutch morning rush hour on Tuesday, according to motoring organisation ANWB.
There were 1,136km (700 miles) of jams at the morning peak, it said. A report has called for inefficient cattle farms to be shut down and some speed limits lowered to cut emissions. Farming groups believe they are being victimised while the aviation industry is escaping scrutiny.
How big are the protests?
Organisers were hoping for some 15,000 farmers to join a protest in a field in the centre of The Hague and tractors arrived early on Tuesday, knocking down fences to get there.
Three people were arrested, according to public broadcaster NOS, as reports said 500 tractors had already reached their destination at Malieveld an hour before the demonstration was set to start. Amid the placards carried by the tractors was one simple hashtag: “No farmers no food.”
How serious is the crisis?
The Dutch top court, the Council of State, ruled in May that Dutch rules for granting building and farming permits breached EU law on protecting nature from nitrogen emissions, prompting a halt in thousands of projects including new roads, housing blocks and airports.
Last week an advisory committee said drastic measures were needed, both in farming and on Dutch roads. Liberal MP Tjeerd de Groot called for livestock production to be halved, meaning six million fewer pigs and 50 million fewer chickens, prompting a furious reaction from farmers. He blamed intensive livestock farming for much of the Netherlands’ nitrogen emissions problem and argued that the key to the future was modern, sustainable agriculture.
Farming groups believe measurement of carbon dioxide and nitrogen is inaccurate and the debate has been hijacked by city-based climate change protesters.
“We feel as if we’re being put in the dunces’ corner by city types who come and tell us how things should be in the countryside,” one of the protest organisers, Mark van den Oever, told the Trouw website, adding that farmers shouldn’t be blamed for the whole nitrogen issue.