MPs briefed on perils of 'mega-dairies'
Philip Lymbery with Zac Goldsmith MP
Over 50 UK MPs joined Compassion in World Farming on 26th October 2010 to learn more about the threat of ‘mega-dairies’ entering the UK.
The proposed construction of the UK's largest dairy farm posed a giant threat to animal welfare and all those who believe that humane and sustainable farming is the only viable way to feed our planet.
This Westminster event, organised by Compassion in World Farming and WSPA and hosted by Austin Mitchell MP, underlined the strength of feeling against the proposal to build an intensive dairy cow unit in Lincolnshire, England, where thousands of animals would be housed indoors for much, if not all the time.
MP Support for our campaign
Throughout the evening, MPs were asked:
- To sign an Early Day Motion supporting the aims of Compassion’s ‘Cows Belong in Fields’ campaign
- To highlight the animal welfare concerns raised by Nocton’s proposed mega-dairy to DEFRA’s Minister Jim Paice
- To support the Sustainable Livestock Bill which promotes sustainable farming and is being introduced to Parliament by Robert Flello MP . Friends of the Earth, who are championing the Bill, were present at the mega dairy briefing to provide further information and encourage MPs to be at the second hearing.
Compassion patrons and high profile supporters also attended the event to show their support for the ‘Cows belong in fields’ campaign. These included Alexandra Bastedo, Sir Crispin Tickell, Zac Goldsmith MP, Marc Abraham and Nathalie Cox.
Compassion believes that cows belong in fields
Placing thousands of cows into industrial-style sheds will have disastrous consequences for animal welfare, rural livelihoods and the environment:
- A recent report by the expert European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) makes it clear that the health of dairy cows can suffer if they are denied pasture
- Sewage production will be the equivalent to the population of a city almost the size of Bristol
- 60-80 average-sized dairy farms are likely to be put out of business by one such factory farm.
Read more about intensive dairy farming >>
Farmers have a choice
During the evening, Neil Darwent, a South West dairy farmer gave his view on the proposed mega dairy.
On the issue of pasture and land use Neil commented:
"Grass is probably the most incredible plant on the planet. Different species growing all around the globe have been the foundation of livestock farming for centuries. For ruminant animals it provides far more than just freedom – it delivers a complete balanced diet offering energy, protein, minerals and trace elements that can be freely harvested by the animals that graze it and, in turn, these abundant pastures indirectly supply a large portion of our own dietary needs. We don't just feed cows on grazed grass because it’s good for them – it’s also a very cheap feed and one that grows well throughout the UK.
"The western side of our country grows grass and the silty soils of East Anglia are the nation’s vegetable patch and cereal bowl. Displacing one sector of agriculture with another like this is not sustainable – farming evolved where it did for a reason. I find it incredible in a hungry world with more and more people aspiring to eat meat and dairy products, we are ripping up pasture to grow cereals, which will then be fed to our livestock.”
On the broader issue of sustainability and the answers that lie within the gift of the farming community:
“Mega dairies do not provide a long term sustainable solution – they simply offer a quick fix for those trying to maintain margins in the supply chain whilst offering cheap food. The operators of these farms will wield no more power in the negotiating milk prices than they do today. Furthermore, the consignment of dairy cows into mega herds will serve to only distance consumers further form the origins of their food. If we are to provide food for future generations from our own shores, we must promote farming systems that create something of real value to us all.
Neil questioned whether consumers want to buy milk viewed with the same suspicions that they have of battery eggs.
"We must learn the lessons from other failures in industrialised farming such as battery hens. I am here tonight because I believe farmers have the answers. But if we do not engage directly with everyone who has a stake in our future we will build farms that are wrong for us, wrong for our livestock and wrong for everyone in this country.“
Neil’s insightful comments underscored the fact that this issue represents a defining moment for the future of farming and the British countryside.
Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming said:
Philip Lymbery addressing the audience
“We are at a pivotal moment in history for animal welfare, our countryside and indeed the farming community. Your support for our campaign, cows belong in fields, will help define that future. Your support will help prevent the runaway train that mega-dairies are likely to represent if let loose; bringing profound consequences for the health of our countryside, the prosperity of family farms, and, of course, the welfare of our cows.”
View Philip’s speech to MPs on his blog, a compassionate world >>
Please take action at this crucial moment in history for animal welfare
Your support will help define the future of farming in the UK. If you haven’t already taken action, please email your MP and urge them to sign EDM 942.
The fight is not over
In 1967, dairy farmer, Peter Roberts founded Compassion in World Farming in response to the wide-scale emergence of factory farming. In Lincolnshire in 2010, his rallying cry against the unnatural confinement and suffering of farm animals is needed more than ever. More mega-dairies are being proposed and we are gearing up for a long battle. The backers of the Lincolnshire mega-dairy were determined to introduce a US-style intensive dairy system to the UK. they weren't successful but others will no doubt follow in their wake. We are absolutely determined that this should never happen.
If you’ve not donated yet, please help us end all forms of intensive farming and keep cows where they belong - in fields >>