Cows and pigs suffering in extreme heat in the Netherlands

Black and white cow looks into camera with a yellow ear tag, animal news, cows and pigs suffering in the Netherlands
Cows with ear tags, photo: Jenny Hill on Unsplash

Cows have been standing unprotected in the blazing sun during the heatwave this week in the Netherlands, farm animal welfare organization Wakker Dier said. Temperatures reached over 30 degrees Celsius for several days in the European country.

By law, animals must be protected from heat, but the Dutch government hasn’t enforced these laws. When they’re outside, animals should be given shade and water. 

Nearly three-quarters of the cows in fields are left without shade, Wakker Dier said, who checked farm animals on Friday in the northern province of Friesland, the region with the most dairy cattle.

They counted nearly 5,400 cows in 146 grasslands across the province: 71 percent of the cows received no shade, and 23 percent had some shade but too little for all the animals. Only six percent received sufficient shade, but these were mainly small groups of cows.

“Everywhere you go, you see animals in barren meadows. We receive many photos and reports from concerned people throughout the Netherlands. Meadows without shade are more the rule than the exception,” Anne Hilhorst, director of Wakker Dier, said in a statement, adding that there’s hardly any enforcement, “so cows continue to suffer from severe heat stress.”

Wakker Dier advises people to always report to the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) if they see animals in the blazing sun.

“It is up to the NVWA whether they will take up the report and enforce the law. But by reporting the suffering, we put pressure, and the extent of the suffering becomes clear. Hopefully, that pressure will finally lead to more action from the government,” Hilhorst said.

Cow left in sun with broken hip
On Friday, a Dutch farmer left a cow with a broken hip to die in the scorching sun at a farm in Krimpen aan de Lek. Bystanders who came to help her told Dutch media that the farmer refused to give his animal medical care.

The cow was unable to move from the morning; bystanders said that when they went to check on her she was completely dehydrated and in a lot of pain. After they pressured the farmer to help the cow, a veterinarian arrived at night and euthanized the cow.

“From 7.15 this morning lying on the floor with intense pain. Broken hip and farmer knows it. I’m going to see if I can file a report for withheld medical care. Kudos to the people who brought umbrellas for a bit of shade and insisted that a vet should come,” Karen Soeters, the founder of House of Animals, said on Twitter.

Pig transport
Dutch animal welfare organization Eyes on Animals filmed a truck full of overheated pigs waiting in the blazing sun at a Vion Food Group slaughterhouse in Boxtel. 

During two scorching days in July, Eyes on Animals saw similar heat suffering for pigs at the same slaughterhouse. “The pigs in the trucks were gasping for breath, foaming at the mouth and had dangerously high breathing rates,” Eyes on Animals said.

According to the organization, there is a structural problem at the largest slaughterhouse in the Netherlands: “At Vion, structurally too many pigs are supplied per hour, while there is not enough capacity for this in the waiting shed and at the unloading platform.”

Eyes on Animals submitted an enforcement request to the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Henk Saghouwer, about the long waiting times at the Vion slaughterhouse.

A spokesperson for Vion Food Group told Dutch news media RTL Nieuws that mistakes were made but denied a structural problem at their slaughterhouse.

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