A problem of too many pigs

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Something not commonly known even to the Dutch is that their country contains five time more pigs than people. The amount of pig and cow waste in the country's small land area is a major threat to surface-water quality, because the waste contains nitrates that cause acidification.

A national standard in the Netherlands on the amount of nitrates allowed per hectare limits the number of pigs that can be reared. Ede, for example, is a municipality in the centre of the country, populated by 2,000 livestock farmers. Recently, 80 of them were granted municipal licences to expand their livestock holding, but this was opposed by the Society for Environmental Offensive, a non-governmental organisation that has taken its case to the Council of State.

The society argued the standard for nitrates in the area has already been exceeded. Livestock farmers warn they would have to close down if they are not allowed to expand, but their case does not look promising because in the past, the council has forced the municipality to withdraw licensing.

The Ede case is still pending in the council, but it has drawn national attention because the municipality is adjacent to a nature park.