State has failed to protect locals from pig farm stench, court rules

Pigs on a factory farm. Photo:

The government has not done enough to protect people living close to pig farms against the smell and is therefore liable to pay them compensation, judges in The Hague said on Friday.

The case was brought on behalf of 16 people who live close to factory farms in Brabant, Limburg and Gelderland and who claim the smell had only become a problem since they moved to their present home.

‘The law covering the regulation of smells is not fit for purpose and the state has done nothing to project citizens from the consequences,’ lawyer Nout Verbeek told the AD after the verdict. ‘This is an important confirmation which can also be useful in future cases.’

The court said citizens had the right to expect that the government would balance the economic interests of a farmer and the good health of its people, but that this had not happened.

‘This case rests on the fact that legislation introduced in 2006/2007 does not properly offset the interests of local residents against those of the intensive farming sector,’ the court said.

In eight of the 16 cases, the court said the plaintiffs are entitled to compensation because they had proved that the stench from the farms was too great. The amount of compensation will be determined in other legal proceedings.

As yet it is unclear if the state will appeal. Junior environment minister Vivianne Heijnen said in a reaction that the verdict would be studied closely but that ‘as government, we have to protect our health and our environment’.

‘Clean air is a crucial part of that,’ she said.

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