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Monday, April 18, 2011

Fears over gigantic pig farm to house 25,000 animals in metal sheds 24 hours a day

By David Derbyshire

'Superfarm': The planned complex would keep the pigs indoors 24 hours a day

A gigantic ‘pig factory’ where 25,000 sows and piglets will be housed in vast metal sheds round the clock is being planned.

The controversial complex will send 1,000 pigs to slaughter every week – enough to make 56million sausages a year.

The industrial-scale farm planned for Foston, Derbyshire, would be one of the largest of its kind in the UK.

Animal campaigners warn that it could drive hundreds of traditional family farms out of business and herald a wave of American-style ‘mega-farms’. There are also concerns about the welfare of animals raised in such artificial conditions.

Plans for the 30-acre complex have been submitted to Derbyshire County Council and are now open for consultation.

The company behind the farm, Midland Pig Producers, owns 30 farms in eight countries and produces more than 100,000 pigs a year.

It came under fire earlier this year for threatening opponents who criticised the plans with a hugely expensive libel action.

It says the factory will not smell, and that the welfare of the animals will be a priority.

Plans for the UK’s first mega-dairy housing up to 8,000 cows in Nocton, Lincolnshire, were shelved in February after protests.

The Soil Association, which campaigns for organic farming, said hundreds of farmers could be driven out of business if mega-farms came to Britain and flooded the market with cheap milk and meat.

Policy director Peter Melchett said: ‘Developers claim they’re meeting public demand, but it’s wrong to say the British public are demanding that cows must be kept inside throughout the months they are milked, or that mother pigs should spend their entire lives shut up inside a factory.’

Simon Pope of the World Society for the Protection of Animals said: ‘We know from America that the real cost of food produced in factory farms is poor animal welfare, pollution and the economic death knell for thousands of small scale farmers.

‘That cannot be something we sleepwalk into accepting here. If we do, it’s difficult to see how the British countryside and our traditional rural communities will ever be the same again.’

A spokesman for Midland Pig Producers said: ‘In order for UK farming companies to compete with meat imported from abroad – which is not produced to the high UK welfare standards – they must be economically effective.

‘We have repeatedly stressed that animal welfare is our top priority and our plans for the Foston site are to the highest possible specification. These plans have been inspected by some of the most highly respected animal welfare groups who have not raised any objections.’



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