Minister Schauvliege, we demand a clear and straightforward climate and environmental policy.

Almost every day there is news about the negative effects of climate change. It is well past the hour of reckoning, but still we see that environmental policy in Belgium is shamefully out of date. Climate action plans drawn up by municipalities are dated, incomplete and not legally binding. Control measures required for livestock farming, which is globally one of the biggest culprits of greenhouse gas production, being responsible for approximately 14.5% of the total emissions, are barely existent and poorly implemented. 

On 25 October 2018 the Flemish Brabant Provincial Government, upon advice of the Municipality of Boortmeerbeek, gave permission for the development of a large-scale beef farm in that municipality. More than 120 objections were submitted by local residents, attempting to demonstrate that this project will cause significant inconvenience to, and have a large impact on, the surrounding environment and its inhabitants. More than 40 people will appeal and the appeal will go to Minister Schauvliege 

Communications concerning the planned large-scale livestock farm were kept to an absolute minimum by the Municipality of Boortmeerbeek, and concerns from local residents and stakeholders were marginalized. For example, the permit states that it concerns the relocation of an existing company. In reality it concerns the development of a new beef farm at the planned location, with an increase in the number of beef cows to 550, a doubling compared to the number at the current location just outside Mechelen. There is also a larger plan that includes an increase to over 1000 beef cows. The expected greenhouse gas emissions for such a large-scale livestock venture (an estimated 3,390 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year) correspond to an addition of at least 30% of the hoped-for CO2 reduction, as stated in the climate action goals of Boortmeerbeek, aiming to be reached by 2020. 

Not only the day to day running activities of the farm are of concern (noise, smell, heavy vehicle traffic in the form of tractors and large trucks), but also changes to the local landscape, such as soil elevation and concrete hardening of an extensive area etc, will all have dangerous impacts on the adjacent nature reserve, the near-by residential cluster, as well as the Sint Jozefs Farm, a heritage site bordering the proposed venture, all of which are situated in a flood-prone area. Local residents already regularly deal with the hindrance of frequent flooding; instead of addressing the situation, local authorities are only increasing the risks. We also fear the impact that excessive water consumption will have on groundwater levels; the concomitant pollution effects on water and soil, the impact on local road traffic safety, and the loss of open green space.  

We want to send a strong signal to the Government, for the sakes of our childrens’ and grandchildrens’ futures. The important nature of the negative impacts on the environment, climate and against social priorities make the proposed farm the wrong project, in the wrong place at absolutely the wrong time. This is a symbolic case.