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Dutch discuss maximum size of pig houses

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Recent discussions in the Netherlands related to the maximum size of livestock buildings have led to stricter expansion rules in the province of North Brabant, the country's most important province for pig and poultry production.

Last week, the province's parliament agreed to restrict maximum sizes for new livestock buildings to 1.5 hectares. An exception is made for 34 special so called 'agricultural development areas' in which a maximum size of 2.4 hectares will be the rule, under very strict conditions.

Consequences
The new size laws may have consequences for the rest of the country as well, since the decision has sparked debates in the neighbouring province of Limburg and animal welfare parties also have announced to take the initiative to the national parliament.

Support for the restrictions is based on a popular movement, called 'No To Mega Stables', which has started protesting against applications for building permits of large pig and poultry houses. Since the Netherlands is very densely populated, a larger livestock operation will always be seen and smelled.

Public health
In addition, rightly or wrongly, many people fear recent outbreaks of avian influenza, novel influenza A (H1N1) and Q Fever (in goats), which could affect public health, could be the result from keeping animals in large livestock operations.

It is also claimed that the new legislation helps preventing empty farms at the province's countryside.

by Vincent ter Beek

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