Over the past thirty five years, a very quiet revolution has taken place in rural Holland. Aided by a relentless stream of subsidies and technological innovations, the Dutch small farmers of the Seventies have developed into modern agrarian entrepreneurs with businesses dealing with millions of Euros. Their products can be found all over the world on supermarket shelves. The Netherlands has risen to number two on the list of exporters of agricultural products. But the price of this success is high, and not only in terms of money.
Each year, billions of Euros in subsidies find their way via various channels to farms. This happens unnoticed to the man in the street. The larger the farm, the larger the amount of money that goes there. And this is not about small amounts. Any dairy farmer worth talking about has about a hundred cows. In recent years he has received subsidies of more than fifty thousand Euros on average per year, concealed in his milk price. A “small” dairy farmer, with about fifty cows, had to make do with more than twenty five thousand Euros. But the real high earners in agriculture, such as the former Minister of Agriculture Veerman, rake in almost two hundred thousand Euros annually in subsidies.
To the farmers, this is the most normal thing in the world, and that is remarkable, to say the least. It is not exceptional that entrepreneurs or other civilians are given temporary support to help them through a difficult period. It is exceptional, however, that one profession alone is not only entitled to such an arrangement, but is also capable of expanding it. It means that, up to now, farmers have been able to create a status of unassailability for themselves.
The stream of subsidies to farms, in Europe alone amounting to some 45 billion Euros annually, has been the subject of discussion often enough. But this has resulted in little more than talking about it. Where amendments were made, these were compensated elsewhere. What went out the front door in subsidies, came straight back through the back door in the form of income support.
The practically unlimited flow of money was, and is still, used to further industrialise agrarian business. Cows, chickens and pigs have become mere machines which have only one purpose: optimalising profit. And nothing is too crazy to achieve this. All bodily parts of an animal, which are inconvenient to the farmer, are simply removed. Without anesthetic, of course, because anesthetics cost money and that pushes the cost price up and lowers profit. In a world where animals have become machines, those animals (they are, after all machines) do not feel pain, so why should they be anesthetized?
In modern day livestock farming, fodder is not food for an animal, but fuel from which milk and meat is produced. Of course at as little cost as possible, which is why the production animal is fed everything that is not explicitly forbidden by law. And where animals are concerned, the law forbids practically nothing, on that point.
Farmers create nature, they say themselves. And the civilian believes them, because they confuse everything that is green and waves in the wind, with nature. In recent years, however, large portions of the countryside have been transformed into grass deserts from where the natural inhabitants – not only a large variety of birds but also grasses, flowers and micro organisms – have long fled.
It would be somewhat too simple to apportion all blame for this mutilation of nature to the farmer. The Authorities, thus all of us together, not only stood by and watched it happen; we even encouraged enthusiastically. At the weekend, the large majority of consumers fill their trolleys to the brim with special offers without wondering how these products were made.
Via a sneaky process, farmers have let themselves become estranged from nature by making machines of their animals. The consumer participated in this process via an equally sneaky way by purchasing the products from these machines unquestioningly. Obviously, for many farmers and consumers, just one thing is important: the price! Farmer and civilian have started to think with their purses.
But still, something is starting to change, step by step. A growing group of consumers sets standards by the manner in which food is produced and is prepared to pay extra for it. More and more farmers try to escape from the vicious circle in which they find themselves.
However, the mechanisms which have led to the degeneration of Dutch agrarian production are still operating at full force. These mechanisms are described in this book. These are adaptations of a number of articles that was published earlier in the Dutch newspaper The Financial Daily (Het Financiële Dagblad). Where relevant, they have been amended to comply with the current situation. A number of chapters not published before has also been included.