Vast factory farms a step closer after ministers order research into ‘sustainable intensification’ of the livestock industry
By SEAN POULTER
A new generation of vast pig and dairy factory farms look set be built.
Ministers have ordered a research project on how to pursue what they call ‘sustainable intensification’ of the livestock industry. In practice this will mean the building of mega dairy farms, or units, populated by as many as 8,000 cows that are milked around the clock and spend most of their lives inside.
Changes: Ministers have ordered a research project on how to pursue what they call 'sustainable intensification'
of the livestock industry
These so-called zero grazing or battery cow systems are highly controversial and one scheme, at Nocton, Lincolnshire, has already been defeated by public opposition. However, it is clear the Government is keen to support this kind of factory farming as part of a drive to provide cheap food. Britain already has a large number of massive pig factory farms where the animals never go outside, but the new generation will be even larger.
One plan at Foston, Derbyshire, would create a 30-acre pig factory housing 25,000 sows and piglets.
The Government’s stance has been condemned by animal welfare campaigners, who warn factory farms are cruel. Peter Stevenson, of Compassion in World Farming, said support for intensive farming was at odds with promises made by the Conservatives and Lib Dems.
We have a Government that committed itself to promoting “high standards of farm animal welfare” now encouraging a growth of factory farming,’ he added. Details of the approach emerged in a tender document calling for organisations to bid to carry out research on how large factory farms should operate. The document states: ‘Government policy supports “sustainable intensification” of the livestock industry. Evidence is needed to assess the potential of mega scale units to meet the challenge of improving productivity and efficiency, while minimising environmental impacts and maintaining animal health and welfare.’
Separately, the Government is changing planning rules that will make it easier for farm businesses to get permission for the vast complexes. The idea that factory farms can operate in a way that is sustainable and protects animal welfare is rejected by critics. Mr Stevenson said: ‘Cows are zero-grazed, never or rarely being allowed out to graze on grass. Pigs kept in mega units are generally packed into barren pens, never enjoying fresh air or daylight and unable to perform their natural behaviours.’ A spokesman for Defra said the study would ‘investigate the pros and cons of sustainable intensive farming’.
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