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Dutch PM slams ‘life-threatening’ farmer protests

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged farmers on Thursday to end their “life-threatening” protests against government environmental plans after several roads were blocked by fires and manure.

Angry farmers have resumed their protests after a break of several weeks, demanding an end to government plans to cut nitrogen emissions by reducing livestock and closing some farms.

Several key roads in the central and eastern Netherlands were blocked on Wednesday and Thursday after farmers dumped manure and garbage and lit fires by roadsides.

“The protests by a small group of farmers on highways yesterday and this morning are unacceptable. Wilfully endangering others, damaging our infrastructure and threatening people who help clean up is beyond all limits,” Rutte said on Twitter.

“These life-threatening actions must stop. There are plenty of other ways to express your dissatisfaction legally.”

The Netherlands, the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter, is one of the top greenhouse gas emitters in Europe — especially of nitrogen — with much of this blamed on cattle-produced manure and fertiliser.

Dutch farmers say they are being unfairly targeted as opposed to big business and industry, with many vowing to resist any plans to scale down or close farms.

The government plans would involve around 30 percent less cattle, Dutch media say.

The farmers have gained some public support, with people in several areas hanging Dutch flags upside down from street lamps and road bridges, a symbol of the protest.

They have also become a cause celebre for right-wingers internationally, with former US president Donald Trump last week hailing them for “courageously opposing the climate tyranny of the Dutch government”.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has also backed them.

Tractor-driving farmers blocked roads and supermarket depots during a series of protests in the Netherlands in June.