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Protestors against the proposed 25,000-pig factory farm at Foston, Derbyshire. Photo: Farms not Factories.
Protestors against the proposed 25,000-pig factory farm at Foston, Derbyshire. Photo: Farms not Factories.
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Big stink! 24,500-pig factory farm defeated

The Ecologist

26th February 2015

A proposed factory farm at Foston, Derbyshire, condemned by locals as a 'pig prison' for 25,000 animals has been refused a permit by the Environment Agency because of the powerful stench it would emit and potential risks to health and the environment.

What is most significant is the signal this sends about the future of livestock farming in this country. We are not, as is often claimed, on a relentless and unstoppable drive to have bigger and more intensive livestock systems.

The Environment Agency has turned down a permit application by Midland Pig Producers for a 24,500 pig 'mega-farm' because the operation would risk human health and the rights of residents to breathe clean air free of heavy agricultural odours.

According to the Agency, "The reason for refusal is that based on the information that has been provided to us we cannot be satisfied that the activities can be undertaken without resulting in significant pollution of the environment due to odour which will result in offence to human senses and impair amenity and/or legitimate uses of the environment."

"We do not have confidence in the Applicant’s control measures to prevent an unacceptable risk of odour pollution beyond the installation boundary", the decision notice continued. "We cannot give the Applicant any comfort that in this location any proposals would reduce the risk of odour pollution to an acceptable level."

On health impacts, the Agency stated that "we cannot yet conclude that the risks from bioaerosols emitted from site are low", and "we cannot yet conclude that the risks from ammonia emissions on human health from site are not significant." It also found that the plans to dispose of excess water were "unclear" and could pose a risk to a local stream, Dale Brook.

Residents welcome decision

The proposed unit at Foston, Derbyshire, has been the subject of fierce opposition in a four-year-long fight that saw celebrities - including actor Dominic West and River Cottage chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - stand up against the proposed farm due to its monstrous scale.

The Ministry of Justice, which runs the women's prison at Foston less than 150 metres from the proposed site, also sent in a list of objections.

Jim Davies, leader of the Foston Community Action Group, said local residents, who had been almost unanimous in opposing the plan, were hugely relieved: "After four years of public consultation the facts are now clear; the applicants provided insufficient information and should now abandon this flawed scheme forever."

Sue Weston, whose house is next door to the proposed site, said she was "over the moon" at the decision. "This industrial development would totally ruin the small village community of Foston and put innocent families in danger from the unknown consequences of an experimental pig prison."

But the story may not be over yet. A spokesperson for Midland Pig Producers told the BBC: "While not wishing to second-guess any decision by any other body, it seems inevitable that this outcome will provide others with the reason to refuse any application connected with our plans. However, now that we have an actual decision, we can move forward. This is not the end of the matter, but the beginning of the second stage."

The wider problem

There is mounting public anxiety that industrial, intensive pig rearing systems cause stress and illness in animals and threaten human health. The regular over-use of anitbiotics in such 'factory' farm systems is producing antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The farms also pollute the air and water.

"These factory systems are cruel to pigs", said Tracy Worcester, Director of Farms Not Factories, which campaigns for consumers to buy their pork from real farms. "They are also a threat to traditional family farmers who, though costing less in terms of human health and environmental pollution, incur more expense when rearing their pigs humanely and therefore cannot compete economically with cheap, low-welfare pork."

"Consumers need to look for UK high welfare labels like Freedom Food and Organic", she added. "To cover the extra cost we can buy less popular cuts, shop online or at a local farmers' market. We urge consumers to take our Pig Pledge and pay a fair price for high welfare pork to avoid animal factories such as Foston."

Responding to the company's statement about moving to "the second stage", Worcester insisted: "It's time for Midland Pig Producers to withdraw their planning application and give local people back their peace of mind."

Not a moment too soon!

Her view is heartily endorsed by the Soil Association, which in 2010 received legal threats from the company insisting that it withdraw its formal complaints to the planning authority about the proposed farm.

Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said: "This is a great victory for the local residents, who remained resolute in their determination to defeat this proposal, which posed a serious health risk to the village of Foston and the nearby Foston Women's Prison.

"What is most significant is the signal this sends to the British farming industry about the future of livestock farming in this country. We are not, as is often claimed, on a relentless and unstoppable drive to have bigger and more intensive livestock systems.

"The Soil Association's Not in My Banger campaign, launched nearly five years ago to oppose the Foston pig farm, calls for all pigs to have the right to live part of their lives in the open air, not to be subject to mutilation and for sows to be able to make a nest in which to give birth. The Environment Agency's decision vindicates the Soil Association's long campaign.

"We are confident that the planning application can now be swiftly dismissed by Derbyshire County Council, bringing an end to this unhappy saga."

 


 

Action: Buy only high welfare pork (or go meat-free). Look for supermarket labels 'Freedom Food', 'outdoor bred', 'free range' or 'organic'. Sign the Pig Pledge and get your local high welfare producers to sign up to our High Welfare Directory.

 

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