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“What Farmers Defense Force does is not take action, but intimidation”

There is a slaughterhouse in Boxtel (province of North Brabant) where 20,000 pigs are slaughtered every day. A sample in June revealed that 1 in 3 employees there was infected with the corona virus. Still, the virus fire remained open, otherwise farmers could not get rid of their animals. Our meat industry is organized so efficiently that tens of thousands of pigs have to die every day. A debatable decision, because there is still no clarity as to why slaughterhouses are so often affected by the virus – is it the labor migrants, the cooling systems or the dead animals? No wonder that inhabitants of Boxtel are worried. They don’t want Vion to become the next Tönnies. A group of people from Brabant therefore took to the streets a few weeks ago.

When Farmers Defense Force found out, the club took a counter action. A call went out to members: “We are making a very clear statement that everyone, and I mean everyone, is leaving our sector with their counterparts!!!” They did that by taking pictures of the demonstrators’ number plates. Afterwards, Farmers called on the Defense Force to share photos and videos of the “extreme vegans and animal extremists” on Facebook. It was insinuated on social media that the protesters had followed home to find out their addresses. “Then we will soon know who these people are and the net will slowly close around them! From anonymity to full publicity. After that, these people are allowed to answer.” The page has been removed, but has been recreated.

Now let’s call the beast by name: what Farmers Defense Force does is not campaigning but intimidation. “You can think of Farmers Defense Force as a pit bull hanging in your pants. We have been bitten and will not let go until our demands are met”, said a regional Farmers Defense Force action leader in Farm magazine. Since a pit bull is not exactly a peaceful animal, I think this is a scary comparison. But even more frightening is the message that the farmers’ club does not tolerate no. That is downright undemocratic and can only lead to further radicalization. Because what does the Farmers Defense Force do with people who don’t share their opinion? Last Saturday, foreman Mark van den Oever said in the magazine to this newspaper that he would “do everything he could” to reduce Jesse Klaver (leader Green Party) and Tjeerd de Groot – the D66 Member of Parliament who stated that the livestock should be halved. That seemed an implicit threat to me, but afterwards the conversation happily continued talking about Van den Oever’s newborn son. Monday came out that De Groot has filed a report for death threats in Facebook groups of radical farmers’ clubs. It would be good if journalists were less naive towards the Farmers Defense Force.

But more importantly, politicians, and in particular Minister Carola Schouten, must speak out much more firmly against the intimidation of citizens and politicians by angry farmers. I’m afraid I know why she doesn’t: Schouten also has a car with a number plate, an address and a son. And no sense to be “reviewed” in a Facebook group of radical farmers.

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