In 25 years time, the majority of us will be vegetarian
In 25 years time the majority of the Dutch people will be vegetarian. The Netherlands as mass producer of meat will then be a thing of the past. The farmers would be well advised to concentrate on luxury agricultural products. There is much more money to be earned that way, says Dirk Boon. Dirk Boon, (ex-)professor of Animal Rights in Utrecht and lawyer in Zuidhorn was interviewed by Nico Hylkema for the Dutch newspaper, the Leeuwarder Courant on 8 July 2003. In an article in "New Scientist", scientists predict a meat free World in 50 years time because they think that humans will be able to fathom the thoughts and emotions of animals by 2056.
"We're getting there. In 25 years time the majority of us will be vegetarian. Eating meat will, just as our Grandfathers whiskey and cigar, become outdated".
Anyone who finds this strange, needs only to look at hunting, Boon says. "The hunter has been made look ridiculous, through good communication. He may now only hunt a limited number of animals and he is no longer taken seriously. The same applies to fur. Who would dare wear a fur coat out and about nowadays? "
The professor does not hold with the popular belief that the consumer lets his purse talk. Boon was once in de advertising business and is convinced that a better livestock farm could be sold to that same consumer at a higher price. "That is a question of communication. There are enough examples. Who would have thought ten years ago that we would be ashamed of smoking?"
Treating animals with dignity is a question of emancipation," says the professor. "It could be compared with the abolishment of slavery. It took us a long time to realise that the black person was not a commodity, but we succeeded in the end".
farming in the Netherlands is doomed. Farmers cannot earn enough from it and more and more consumers are turning vegetarian. "Things are in motion", is Boon's conclusion.
"I often hear that so much has been improved. But ten thousand chickens are still kept together in a chicken farm. Every animal scientist could tell you that within a group of hens, there is a clear hierarchy. This has no chance whatsoever in such enormous groups, as the social context has completely disappeared from view.
And all this for a piece of safe, inexpensive meat. If things go wrong via some animal disease or other, mass exterminations need to be carried out in order to restore the public's confidence. "We have completely overshot the mark here. We demand absolute certainty, but that does not exist".
Furthermore, Boon sees no economic advantages in pig and poultry farming. "I get so annoyed at the complaining farmers who moan during a crisis that their farms will become extinct within a few months. These are bad businessmen with little meat on their bones".
The economical aspect sends farmers into a negative spiral, says Boon. After each crisis they need to carry on more rationally and with more animals in order to make good the costs. A bleak position . "Leave mass production to the Polish, with their present low outgoings".
"This process would lead to The Netherlands as producer of luxury agricultural products. A much better economical prospect. Land costs at present around €20.000. If you want to earn 10% on that, you will need to do so with luxury products".
An example of this is biological, land-held pig farms, who deliver on contract to the butcher at an average price of €2,50 per kilo. This has a future. "It may not particularly excite you, as businessman, but it does reduce stress".
The less intensive dairy farm should not be daunted. Meadows and grasslands will continue to dominate the Dutch landscape. You need cows for this, although not such enormous herds with high production. Boon: "Cows belong outside and should not be required to yield more that 7,000 liters of milk per year. If you make this sufficiently clear to the consumer, there will be a market for dearer milk".
And what would it matter if milk was a few cents dearer? During an action, Boon distributed cartons of milk in a shopping mall in Utrecht (Hoog Catherijne). He asked the public what the price of a carton of milk was. Nobody could give an exact answer and almost everyone guessed a price about 10 cents higher than it actually was! "Low prices are degenerating. Farmers should not accept this. They are already so belittled. Show that you are good to your animals. Leave the cows outside". Focus on animal welfare alone is not enough, "you need economically strong farmers to bring about better communication with animals and nature. It needs to be approached as a whole".