Tractor protest sparks 'biggest' Dutch traffic jam

The Hague (AFP) –


Thousands of Dutch farmers drove their tractors on Tuesday to a huge protest against government climate policies, causing the country' biggest ever traffic jams, officials said.

The farmers travelled from all over the country to The Hague for the four-wheeled demonstration, saying they had been unfairly blamed for emissions that cause climate change.

The tailbacks caused by the tractors were a total of 1,136 kilometres (705 miles) long, making it the "busiest ever morning rush hour", according to Dutch traffic organisation the ANWB.

"We get the feeling that all these climate measures are falling on our shoulders. And that annoys us," said Sander Pereboom, a 37-year-old farmer.

"We want to do something for the climate and we want to do it together with everyone in the Netherlands. It shouldn't only be farmers who pay the price," he told AFP.

Tractors rolled across the beach in the coastal area of Scheveningen before parking on a huge park in the centre of The Hague, where bands played on a stage.

Riot police with shields blocked access to nearby roads leading the Dutch parliament.

The farmers were protesting after a recent report ordered by the government recommended a drastic cut in cattle, particularly dairy cows, to cut emissions.

The Netherlands, around a third of which lies below sea level, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

But its economy is also highly reliant on agriculture, with the small European country being the world's second biggest agricultural exporter after the United States.

"We are always portrayed in a bad light as the polluters of the Netherlands. But in our sector we are already doing our best to cut CO2 emissions," said Ellen Heemskerk, a 50-year-old farmer, adding that the tourism and industrial sectors should also bear the blame.

"I want farmers who want to stay farmers, and who want to pass on this trade to their children, to be able to do so. We will help you prepare for the future," Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten told farmers at the protest.