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Netherlands Veganland: a good idea? These are the outcomes of the thought experiment!

Less meat and dairy means more space for nature, leisure, climate, biodiversity, more justice, and it's good news for the economy. That's according to the thought experiment conducted by Strootman Landscape Architects and Leiden environmental scientists. They presented their findings on 11 April.

What if everyone ate plant-based, and we didn't import animal feed? That’s what Strootman Landscape Architects and Leiden environmental scientists Joran Lammers and Jan Willen Erisman explored. The Van Eesteren-Fluck and Van Lohuizen Foundation funded the research.

The benefits

‘How can you design our cities, countryside, and society in a way that is fair to everyone?’ That’s the question the researchers aimed to answer. The thought experiment shows that less meat and dairy have many benefits, including more space for nature, leisure, climate improvement, biodiversity, and more justice. It could also be a solution to the problem of space shortage in the Netherlands, which is evidently linked to our dietary choices and food production methods.

The current system is not fair

Our agricultural system is focused on exports: 80 per cent of the food produced here is exported, and 75 per cent of the food in our supermarkets is imported. Our high concentration of livestock and intensive food production comes with many negative externalities: odour, air and water pollution, greenhouse gases, soil subsidence, soil degradation, animal welfare issues, and more. In the current food system, we make a significant claim on land outside our country, leading to deforestation and other issues.

'Especially vulnerable groups are affected by the current system.'

Erisman: ‘The negative impact on the environment and climate that the current system has worldwide leads to injustice towards vulnerable groups, future generations, and nature itself. People with low incomes are often the victims because they are less able to protect themselves from the consequences of climate change and poorer environmental quality.’

Can it be different?

The thought experiment assumes a vegan diet and a healthy amount of food according to the Schijf for Life (Disk for Life), a sustainable food guideline. It also relies on significantly less food waste and synthetic fertilisers compared to now, and no pesticides. For each food category within the Schijf for Life, the researchers provide examples of crops we can grow in the Netherlands. An important question that farmers - and not only they - will ask is: would the end of animal husbandry in the Netherlands mean the downfall of the agricultural sector? Certainly not! It would actually require more farmers, the researchers state.

What does it yield?

The researchers show that we can produce a healthy, fully plant-based diet for 20 million Dutch people within our borders in a nature-inclusive manner. This still leaves room for various societal ambitions, such as achieving nature goals, improving landscape quality, accommodating population growth, and greening the city.

To answer the question of what a transformation means for the economy, economist Max van der Sleen also weighed in on the issue. His conclusion: Netherlands Veganland has the potential to transform the Dutch economy over 20-25 years in a way that increases our prosperity. But also our well-being and quality of life. Berno Strootman: ‘We get more beautiful landscapes, cleaner air, soil, and water. A shift yields gains for climate justice, animal welfare, our health, and the economy!’

This article is based on the original press release by Strootman Landschaparchitecten. Read the Dutch pressrelease on their website- Nederland Veganland?


Nederlands Veganland Project

This thought experiment was made possible by the Van Eesteren-Fluck & Van Lohuizen Foundation. The EFL Foundation invited teams of experts from the three domains of spatial design, research, and policy to find answers to the question of how we can shape the climate transition in our living environment fairly. The design research was conducted by Strootman Landscape Architects (Berno Strootman, Lotte Embregts, Lisa Peters) and the Centre for Environmental Sciences Leiden (CML) (Joran Lammers, Jan Willem Erisman).

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