Sustainable intensive livestock farming: follow-up audit 2013
The Court of Audit has carried out a follow-up to its 2008 audit of sustainable intensive livestock farming in the Netherlands. We looked at the measures taken by the State Secretary for Economic Affairs and the State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment to reduce ammonia discharges and associated nitrogen deposition. We also audited the success of the State Secretary for Economic Affairs' policy to improve animal welfare.
Ammonia and nitrogen policy having only limited effect
The policy to reduce ammonia discharges and associated nitrogen deposition is providing inadequate protection to biodiversity in the Netherlands. The introduction of the PAS programme to reduce nitrogen and ammonia discharges has been delayed. Furthermore, the State Secretary for Economic Affairs (EZ) has used half the environmental gains achieved by the PAS programme to permit an increase in livestock farming.
Compliance with animal welfare regulations open to improvement, little progress with policy
The State Secretary for EZ is making little progress with animal welfare policy. The date on which farmers must comply with new requirements may be years after the requirements are introduced. Furthermore, the year in which the requirements will take effect has been regularly postponed. Inspections by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Products Safety Authority (NVWA) found that farmers could still improve their compliance with animal welfare regulations. This was particularly true of pig and broiler chicken farmers. In 2011, more than 50% of broiler chicken farmers and more than 30% of pig farmers broke animal welfare regulations. Moreover, the sector regulates itself to a large extent: the NVWA and the government are seeking to increase self-regulation in the sector. To this end, a trial at farms with laying hens did not have a positive result.
The State Secretary for Economic Affairs and the State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment should tighten up environmental regulations in order to reduce ammonia discharges and nitrogen deposition. Further measures may be necessary in the longer term, such as a reconsideration of spatial planning goals. The state secretaries could exercise stricter supervision of where livestock farming has priority over the quality of nature. With regard to animal welfare, we recommend that stricter requirements be introduced on the sector's self-regulation and their enforcement by the NVWA.
The State Secretary for Economic Affairs informed us on behalf of herself and the State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment that ammonia discharges would be reduced further. She did not consider our recommendation to make clearer distinctions in spatial planning policy between livestock farming and nature quality, nor did she consider our recommendation to set clear requirements on the regulation of animal welfare by the sector itself.