Dutch Parliament Backs Ban on Calf Imports

A majority of the Dutch House of Representatives gave their approval to a motion by the country’s left-leaning animal welfare party, PvdD, to ban the import of calves less than two months before national elections in the Netherlands, where agrarian discontent will loom large.

In a non-binding motion, primarily meant to influence government policy, MPs voted 149 to 82 in favour of the motion, which directly acknowledged the suffering of animals and noted a sudden spike in live calves imports from Ireland.

The Netherlands, which is still reeling from the aftereffects of a militant agrarian movement that emerged over the Dutch government’s attempts to impose nitrate quotas on farmers and culminated in victory for the populist BBB party during the March elections, is ground zero for Europe’s anti-meat agenda, with some municipalities holding referenda on banning the advertising of meat products.

The motion was proposed by departing PvdD MP Leonie Vestering and received support from the centrist Dutch caretaker coalition which was brought down in July over a dispute over asylum seekers as the country’s housing market struggles to grapple with overflowing refugee numbers.

Elections will be held in the Netherlands on November 22nd, with polls indicating a surprisingly strong fightback from Green and Left parties led by former EU Commissioner and architect of the EU’s Green New Deal, Frans Timmermans, against a challenge from populists in the form of the BBB and right-wing groups.

With one of Europe’s most vibrant animal rights movements, meat-eating is firmly on the agenda in the Netherlands this election cycle, as a joint green-left coalition led by Timmermans proposed a 75% reduction in livestock numbers as part of their electoral platform on the grounds of reducing climate change.

In 2022, the Dutch Department for Agriculture raised the possibility of new tax incentives for reducing meat consumption, as the BBB Farmers Party urged an opt-out from EU environmental measures as part of its own election manifesto. 

It is unclear how a Dutch ban on live cattle imports would affect a potential EU-Latin America Mercosur trade deal, as South American governments lashed out at EU environmental regulations holding up the deal.