Town Hall Screening and Public Debate
Burton on Trent, June 23rd 2011
An exceptional turnout of people gathered in Burton on Trent town hall on Thursday 23rd June to attend the film screening and public debate on the proposed plans to build a giant pig farm in the village of Foston (application CW9/0311/174). The meeting was jointly organised by Pig Business and The Soil Association, the UK’s leading charity campaigning for planet-friendly food and farming.
The debate follows an application put forward by Midland Pig Producers (MPP) to build a pig farm which would house 2,500 sows and 20,000 piglets. If the plan were to be approved this would be one of the UK’s largest pig farms, with the average size of large-scale intensive pig farms in the UK currently resting at around 500–900 sows.
Months of debate between MPP, animal welfare campaigners, environmental bodies, and farmers preceded the public meeting, which drew the focus of the debate to the local Derbyshire residents – the people who will feel the impact of the mega farm on a daily basis if the proposed plans were to go ahead.
Within the audience were residents from Foston and the surrounding area who were extremely vocal in expressing their anxieties about the proposals. Concerns were voiced on how their quality of life would be affected by the inevitable smells and noise pollution, and how the transportation of 1000 pigs a week to slaughter would affect traffic in the area. Following the recent new stories connecting MRSA and E.coli, with intensive farming, many people also expressed concerns about the potential health implications.
A film screening was followed by a panel of experts debating the issue of mega-farms and answering questions from the floor:
- Peter Melchett, Soil Association Policy Director
- Linda Wardale, Involved in stopping a mega-dairy farm being approved in Lincolnshire
- Marchioness Tracy Worcester, ‘Pig Business’ Film Producer and Campaign Director
- Jim Davies, Scropton and Foston Community Action Group
Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, spoke at the event: “The Soil Association is against the introduction of mega farms into the UK and our objections are largely based on health: the risks to pig health and indeed human health. There are real concerns that unless antibiotics are used more sparingly we’ll find a range of human disease that we just can’t treat. We’ll go back to a period – which none of us are old enough to remember – when all sorts of common diseases were lethal, and that’ll be true for animals as well as people.”
Jim Davies, a local activist who has been at the spearhead of the objections, said: “I haven’t got issues with Midland Pig Producers, but what I have got issues with is what they are proposing. It’s too big. It doesn’t need to be this size. The technology in all of this is really untried in the UK – we are a great big guinea pig in Foston and we’re having it tested on us. All I can say to people is to continue to object. If you’ve written a letter then if needs be write another. There are so many issues in all of this that affect everyone within the community and beyond. Say your bit and object.”
Tracy Worcester, director of Pig Business the film and Campaign, said: “I made a film called Pig Business that describes the true costs of cheap pork which is flooding UK supermarket shelves from the Continent where, according to Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) 90% of the farms are not obeying EU animal welfare legislation. Instead of trying to compete with these cheap imports, our government should be ensuring our family farms be paid to reflect their benefits to society i.e. biodiversity, high animal welfare, protection of the environment, conservation of rural landscapes and rural communities.”