The unpaid bill of Dutch livestock farmers
A study on the social costs of the livestock industry
Friends of the Earth-Netherlands (Milieudefensie) asked CE to use the current literature to estimate the aggregate social costs of the Dutch livestock industry, i.e. the costs passed on by the sector to society as a whole. This ‘unpaid bill’ comprises the costs associated with the various forms of mainly environmental damage caused by the industry: the cost of drinking water treatment, groundwater depletion in nature areas, damage due to ammonia emissions, local stench and so on. In 2002 the total social costs of the Dutch livestock industry for the effects considered amounted to approximately € 2.1 billion.
The study also looked briefly at the scope for reducing these unpaid costs. Given that most Dutch livestock is now ‘factory farmed’, the main focus of this part of the study was on assessing whether a transition to more benign, i.e. organic, production methods would have any major impact on the ‘unpaid bill’. On basis of primarily qualitative data, and the lack of available quantified data, it is not possible to conclude that more benign production methods might result in either a higher or lower ‘unpaid bill’.