Local authorities banned the farmers from driving their tractors to the small town of De Bilt for the demonstration. Previous protests have caused traffic chaos as slow-moving convoys of tractors snarled roads. Instead, the farmers drove to Wednesday's event in cars and pickup trucks.
The farmers are calling on the government to scrap a proposal that would force them to feed cattle less protein as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers argue that reducing the amount of protein in cattle feed is bad for the animals' health and means they produce less milk.
They also say that they are being unfairly singled out while other industries are spared costly emission-reduction measures. Sieta van Keimpema of the Farmers Defense Force protest group that organized the demonstration lamented the ban on agricultural vehicles.
“With tractors, you make a clear statement to many people in the Netherlands who don't know what's going on,” she told national broadcaster NOS. “And those people need to know what this government is capable of — sacrificing cows and their health because on paper they think and believe they can't achieve something any other way.”
The Dutch farming lobby is powerful because of the economic significance of agriculture to the economy of the Netherlands. Dutch farmers’ organization LTO estimates that exports from the country’s nearly 54,000 farms and agriculture businesses were worth 90.3 billion euros in 2018.