The Green Party is opposing the planning application for the development of a mega Pig Factory Farm by Midlands Pig Producers. We also oppose any factory farm for several good reasons outlined below. This specific development would be placed in the pleasant rural village of Foston on Uttoxeter Road, South Derbyshire. The planning application involves a pig rearing unit together with anaerobic digestion facility and associated infrastructures. Midlands Pig Producer already have a factory farm in the area which holds around 5000 pigs. The Foston unit would hold 25000 pigs with 1000 pigs being slaughtered every week.
South Derbyshire DC has refused permission, the matter now lies with Derbyshire County Council who have called for more evidence on environmental impacts. If they refuse the matter will almost certainly go to appeal and be decided by the Ministry of Environment.
Foston residents have been campaigning against this massive development for some time now. The site is bordered by housing and a women’s prison, the natal unit of which is within 130 meters to the pig farm. I have spoken to some residents who have serious concerns about possible health implications, which I understand have not been fully assessed. It is unclear what Midlands Pig Producers would do in the event of an outbreak of disease for example Food and Mouth. Residents fear that the pig unit and possible neighbouring houses and the prison might have to be quarantined and movement in the village strictly limited.
Furthermore local residents understandably do not wish to live next to a big industrial unit, with its associated noise, smell and traffic movements. Although the developers claim that they will filter off 90% of the noise and smells; residents fear that the remaining noise and smells from 25,000 pigs will have a serious impact on their lives.
Another really important point is the risk of flooding. This area is prone to flooding. The actual flood-line is very close to the development; and flooding increases the risk of water contamination. The Environment Agency has objected to the plan on the basis that the risks to groundwater contamination can not be properly managed.
The development will cause a significant increase in traffic movements and noise in an area that lacks the infrastructure to properly absorb these impacts. The proposal is therefore contrary to established planning guidelines for developments in rural areas. Furthermore, the access road to and from the site is not appropriate for heavy industrial and agricultural traffic.
The Green Party promotes a sustainable approach to food production and these mega units, reliant on cheap oil and animal feed are not sustainable, which is why we oppose not only the Foston piggery but also all factory farms. We believe that the land used to grow the animal feed should be used to grow food for human consumption. Producing meat means that these animals have to be fed. Land used to grow the animal food is taken from the area used to grow human food. More intensive units means less land for human food. The calorie needs of a growing pig is about double that of a human child under 10 and 50% higher than an active adult. So the food going to this pig unit could feed 50,000 children.
I feel strongly about animal welfare, since animals are able to experience many of the same feeling as humans do. Any human with some sense of empathy can sense that animals can feel fear, pain and discomfort, they also feel stress when separated from their young. Keeping pigs or any other animals in cages for all of their lives, without natural light, without the chance to be part of their social structures – is cruel. I understand that Midlands Pig Producers claim that they will keep to the RSPCA code of welfare for farmed animals. In my opinion these standards are inadequate for these intelligent and social animals.
Another major concern is the use of antibiotics. In large factory farms animals are kept in unnatural and confined environments, the outbreak and spread of diseases is, therefore a serious risk. In order to prevent this, animals are usually kept on low doses of antibiotics. 27% of all antibiotics are used in pig farming here in the UK. Experts are increasingly warning that bacteria are getting resistant to these antibiotics, which are the same as the ones used in human medicine. We rely on antibiotics heavily; without effective antibiotics normal operations and common illness can become lethal. Risking losing the service of valuable antibiotics through overuse as in factory farms is irresponsible.
As mentioned above, the Green Party says that we have to address sustainability in food production. These factory farms use a lot of energy and have a high carbon footprint. Since we are facing a major environmental crisis, we need to reduce energy usage and carbon omission. The UN has published information that states that the meat and diary industry produces 18% of green house gases globally; however other studies imply an even higher contribution.
These factory units will further harm small and medium sized farmers. Farmers cannot compete with the low prices that these mega units can achieve at the present time. This unit would have around 18 employees working in the factory; if the pigs were traditionally farmed, far more people would be employed and earning a living from this. Do we really want our British farming to become an industrial production line? Do we really want our landscape to be filled with industrial units? Or do we want to see traditional farms with grazing animals in the fields?
Having looked at this Foston development I could not find a single reason that I thought was persuasive in its favour. Local residents, traditional farmers, the pigs, the consumers’ health, our environment all would have to pay a price so that a handful of people could get rich. That is simply not a good reason to allow mega factory farms.