Flander's livestock needs to be drastically cut to save the climate and reach the emission reduction targets, according to the latest advice from the Flemish Climate Monitoring Panel.
The group found a significant reduction of CO2 emissions in agriculture is impossible without slashing the livestock, suggesting that it should be decreased by around 23 million chickens, 1.7 million pigs, 100,000 dairy cows and 40,000 suckler cows, according to reports from Het Nieuwsblad.
"Although technology can help reduce these emissions, it is impossible to achieve a significant reduction in total emissions from our agriculture with the current number of animals," the report stated.
In total, it is thought that a decrease of livestock on this scale would reduce emissions by about 1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which will be necessary for Flanders, as it is reported the region will currently not reach the mark of a 55% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 as set out in the European Union's Green Deal.
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The panel experts added that, aside from being beneficial for the environment, slashing the region's livestock will also have a positive impact on air pollution, the water and air quality and biodiversity, as the additional space that would become available could be transformed into forests, moors and river valleys.
Alongside the advice to cut the number of pigs and cows, the panel also recommended the government invest more heavily in the "protein transition", referring to making the switch to more vegetable and less animal-based foods, as well as supporting green energy investments in agriculture.
Next Friday, the government is expected to discuss extra measures that can be taken to improve the impact on the climate and global warming.
However, whether this latest advice - formulated by the panel for the government for the third time - will be considered during these discussions remains to be seen, as it is a controversial debate that will have a major impact on the agricultural sector and its farmers.
The Farmers' Union has already argued for sufficient support for farmers who are looking to invest in greener alternatives, adding that if farmers have to stop certain production, either because of a reduction in livestock or strict nitrogen rules, they must be compensated.