Minister pledges action after slaughterhouse animal abuse is revealed

Dutch farm minister Carola Schouten says she will tighten up the rules on abattoir closures and increase fines for animal cruelty following revelations about conditions in Dutch slaughterhouses. An item on RTL Nieuws, based on government inspectors' reports, said that 48 fines had been handed down to 19 abattoirs which process cows, sheep and pigs over the past two years because of serious animal welfare issues. Inspectors had seen several instances of pigs being placed in vats of very hot water when they were anaesthetised but still alive and trying to swim. The animals were then held under the water by slaughterhouse workers until they drowned. In another case, calf was skinned alive. The inspector wrote: 'despite the calf's movements, the slaughterman went ahead with removing the skin from its head.' There were also 16 cases of animals being dismembered while they were still alive because their carotid artery had not been properly cut, RTL Nieuws said.   Millions Every year some 15 million pigs, 2 million cows and 500,000 sheep are killed in the Netherlands' 180 slaughterhouses. Fines for breaking the law range from €500 for a 'slight infringement' to €10,000 for a very serious or repeat offences. MPs from across the political spectrum have now called on the minister to get tough. In particular, they say fines should be increased and abattoirs which are multiple offenders should be closed down. 'This is absolute horror for the animals,' said Esther Ouwehand of the pro-animal PvdD. 'We are supposed to believe that everything is so well arranged here in the Netherlands. But a slaughterhouse which skins an animal alive, drowns them in a piping hot bath or chucks them in the bin should be shut down.'  More >

Farmers approached by drugs gangs

Some 15% of Dutch farmers have been asked by criminal gangs to rent out empty barns or storage space, Trouw said on Wednesday. The actual figure could be higher because some farmers who took part in the survey may have been unwilling to admit they have been approached by drugs gangs, the paper said. The figures come from Trouw research into farming in the Netherlands. Police in the south of the country say that between one third and 20% of farmers have dealt with inquiries from criminal gangs. Barns 'Many farmers have no one to take over their business and farm buildings are being left empty,' police spokesman Freek Pecht told the paper. 'It is very difficult for a farmer in that situation to say "no" if someone makes them an offer of cash.' Land is cheap, says Janus Scheepers of the local farmers' lobby group ZLTO. 'In the countryside, square metres don't cost much and you are relatively invisible. And it is easier to dump your drugs waste in a ditch than in the middle of a city.'  More >

Amsterdam out of regulated weed trials

Amsterdam will not take part in soon-to-be started experiments with regulated marijuana production, according to the Parool newspaper, citing the views of acting mayor Jozias van Aartsen. The government is due to announce more details about its plans to start trials of regulated marijuana cultivation later on Wednesday. Six to 10 local authorities will be selected to grow marijuana on a small scale to supply local cannabis cafes, better known as coffee shops. The aim is to remove the gray area between licenced sales and illegal cultivation. Tourists However, according to the Parool, officals feel that Amsterdam's position is different to that of other Dutch cities because it is home to a quarter of the country's licenced coffee shops. In addition, the city does not have to comply with the 'resident only' rules that apply to the rest of the country, which means tourists are allowed to buy cannabis and marijuana as well. This, say officials, makes the city unsuitable to run an experiment in regulated production. The trials are slated to start in early 2019.  More >

Delft gears up for hyperloop record

Delft University students have launched their new experimental capsule for the hyperloop super fast transport system which will be put through its paces in an international competition in the US on 22 July. The Atlas 01 is a half-size pod which will race through the experimental hyperloop system at the SpaceX site in California. The circuit is around one mile long. Space X is an aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company  owned by Elon Musk. The hyperloop is futuristic a passenger and freight transportation that propels a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube at more than airline speed. Last year, Delft won the overall prize, based on the points given for design and safety as well as for speed.This year, speed is the only criteria for winning the competition.  More >

Research chief quits over whistleblowers

The head of the justice ministry's research unit has quit following the publication of a report criticising the way complaints about allegations of interference in research into the ministry’s own soft drugs policy were dealt with. Frans Leeuw stood down as head of the WODC after the report said both he and the justice ministry secretary general had been careless in handling complaints made by a member of staff. Current affairs programme Nieuwsuur said last December that researchers altered unfavourable conclusions and rewrote research questions at officials’ request. The aim, Nieuwsuur said, was to manipulate the findings to ensure they supported existing policy. Nieuwsuur based its findings on conversations with a whistleblower who made a complaint about the interference in 2014, and on internal ministry documents. Report The report, the first of three commissioned by justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus after the revelations, said that new protocols to deal with whistleblowers have to be drawn up. 'The report shows that errors of judgement have been made,' Grapperhaus said. 'It is important that we learn lessons from this and take action. I consider a safe working environment to be in everyone's interest.'  More >

Frankfurt beats Schiphol in direct flights

Frankfurt has overtaken Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport in the annual air connectivity stakes which is based on the number of direct air services offered by an airport, according to ACI Europe. Frankfurt is now the leading European airport in terms of direct connectivity, as a result of significant network expansion via both Lufthansa and low cost carriers serving the German airport. Schiphol has been pushed down to second place for direct connectivity in Europe – still above the sixth position it held back in 2008, ACI Europe said. London Heathrow fell  from second to third this year and was the only EU airport to record a loss in direct connectivity. Schiphol has direct connections with 326 airports in 98 countries. The Amsterdam airport handled 68.5 million passengers and 1.75 million tonnes of cargo last year, putting Schiphol in third place in Europe in both categories. More than 65,000 people have jobs connected to the airport. ACI Europe represents over 500 airports in 45 European countries.  More >

Commercial service imports soar

Dutch companies bought in commercial services from abroad worth €16bn in the first quarter of 2018, a 54% increase over the first three months of 2014, the national statistics office CBS said on Wednesday. Most foreign services were largely in the fields of advertising, market research and consultancy, the CBS said.   Commercial services from other European countries showed the highest growth rate as imports rose to € 10.5bn in the first quarter, up from €7bn five years ago. Britain is the largest supplier of commercial services to companies in the Netherlands, followed by Germany and Ireland.  More >