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Factory Farms Are Rising Across The UK

It’s a sad fact that around 85% of farmed animals are confined in factory farms here in the UK. This intensive method of farming is the single biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet, and yet in our latest data we can reveal the number of intensive factory farms is on the rise, instead of in decline.

Our new interactive Factory Farming Map plots the number of farmed animals confined across the UK by county. Overall, there has been a 12% increase in the number of UK factory farms from 2016 to 2023. Even more concerning, is the 20% increase of large factory farms in pig and poultry units over this seven-year period. You can see how your local area compares in the map below:

The spread of these farms goes against Michael Gove’s categoric statement in July 2017:

"I do not want to see, and we will not have, US-style farming in this country. The future for British farming is in quality and provenance, maintaining high environmental and animal welfare standards."

The growth of such farms is happening right now and could be in your area.

In the UK, 60% of sows are forced to nurse their young through the bars of a “crate”. These crates are essentially cages, too small to even turn around in. Sows will often bite at the bars in intense frustration. Some egg laying hens endure their whole adult lives crammed in cages, lacking enough space to fully stretch their wings without hitting the sides of the cage or each other. Restricting natural behaviours such as foraging, means pigs and hens may bite or peck at each other instead. To combat this, piglets will often have their tails “docked” which means they are cut off. Hens will have their beaks “trimmed” with a method using radiation. These processes are carried out without anaesthetic and are painful. Factory farming is a very cruel system, one that prioritises profit over animal welfare.

Take Action

Write to the Minister responsible for planning in your nation, asking them to strengthen the law to ensure that where communities are overwhelmed by factory farms, local authorities can reject planning applications for even more.

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Farming Failure?

UK Factory Farming Is Polluting Rivers and Harming Our Environment 

Not only is this a barbaric and cruel way to farm, but with over 70% of the UK’s land dedicated to farming there are many negative impacts and reasons to stop the spread of intensive factory farms:

  • Over a billion animals are confined in factory farms every year – that’s 85% of all UK farmed animals.
  • Agriculture is the number one source of river pollution in the UK.
  • The equivalent of 35% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from producing and eating our food and drink.
  • Food production in the UK is threatening 40% of UK species already at risk of extinction.
  • For every 100 calories of edible crops fed to animals, just 17 - 30 calories enter the human food chain as meat and milk.
  • Intensive industrial livestock production entails crowded and stressful conditions which can lead to more harmful strains of disease emerging.

Why Is Factory Farming Spreading?

Permitting the expansion makes no sense, yet local authorities struggle to establish the basis to reject more farms of this type, since neither climate change nor animal welfare are clearly identified as legitimate planning considerations.

What Can You Do About It?

You can write to the Minister responsible for planning in your nation, and ask them to strengthen the law to ensure that where communities are overwhelmed by factory farms, local authorities can reject planning applications for even more.

Top Ten Counties For Confined Animals

This table shows the counties in the UK with the highest number of confined animals in the intensive farming system. Is your county one of them? You can take action and help to stop the spread.

Factory Farming Investigation

Our investigation carried out a comprehensive data search of poultry, dairy, and pig farms in the United Kingdom to put factory farming on the map. The UK environmental agencies classify livestock farms as "intensive" if they have capacity to house at least 40,000 chickens, 2,000 pigs and/or 750 sows.

Dairy and beef cattle farms are not regulated in the same way and there is no formal definition of what constitutes an intensive cattle farm, or records available. Here we use desktop and field-based research to gather these numbers.

For Compassion, it’s both the size of the farm, and the system used that’s important. Some large farms may have higher welfare indoors, for instance, good barn systems for laying hens and Better Chicken Commitment chicken and/or outdoor based with high welfare, and we would not consider these to be intensive farms. However, farms that keep a large number of animals in barren environments such as cages and crates, crowding them into hanger-like sheds or confining them in feedlots, are considered to be intensive farms. 

Megafarms are the largest factory farms in the UK, defined by the number of confined animals they hold. Our investigation found a 20% increase in these farms for poultry and pig in the seven years between 2016 to 2023.

In all areas of the UK, under current rules, a standard regulatory system is in place for pig and poultry farms which meet the size threshold to be regarded as intensive units. Any business whose activities could be harmful to the environment needs an environmental permit to operate.

Neither dairy nor beef farms in the UK are currently regulated in the same way as pig and poultry farms. There is no formal definition of what constitutes an intensive cattle farm, or records of intensive cattle facilities.

For Scotland, it was not possible to show the number of confined farmed animals by county due to the lack of data being made available by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. The overall figures quoted for Scotland are likely to be an underestimate.

For England, some county data is missing because the Environment Agency didn’t pass the information on to the team carrying out the investigation.

Some large indoor-only farms will keep animals in better conditions and a small number of free-range farms may be included in the map data owing to their size. However, the vast majority of animals in indoor systems will suffer from cramped and barren conditions.

The number of farmed animals shown is an underestimation as it does not include smaller farms that do not require a permit. The number of confined animals can vary across the year. Additionally, many farms have a number of “cycles” across the year (poultry specifically) so the true number of animals will be much higher.

Information on farming systems was gathered using a combination of desktop research and field investigations.

Find Out More

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Factory farming is everywhere

Around two in every three farm animals are factory farmed (that’s over 50 billion every year!). These intensive systems put production above all else, creating vast quantities of seemingly cheap meat, milk and eggs.

But factory farming comes at a cost. Treated as commodities, animals are often raised in intense confinement. Factory farming is highly dependent on large quantities of precious resources, such as grain-based feed, water, energy and medication.

This archaic method of food production has failed

Factory farming is not just bad for farm animals. It’s dangerous, unfair and dirty, with impacts ranging from climate change and biodiversity loss to disease and food insecurity. Factory farming is too often viewed as the cheap, efficient solution to feeding our world. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. For every 100 food calories of edible crops fed to livestock, we get back just 17 calories in the form of meat and dairy; an 83% loss. In short, people are being forced to compete with farm animals for food.

We must stop this madness.

There is a better way

Tackling one of the greatest sustainability concerns of our time is a daunting challenge. But it is also a unique opportunity to resolve some of the world’s most pressing economic, environmental and ethical challenges. We need a common sense approach to feeding the world. One that ends the competition for food between people and farm animals. We need a food and farming revolution; one that provides healthy, affordable food for all, produced from farming systems that are:

  1. Safer, promoting our welfare and that of farm animals
  2. Fairer, supporting rural livelihoods and relieving poverty
  3. Greener, protecting the planet and its precious natural resources

With your support, Compassion in World Farming is fighting to end factory farming. We are a global movement to expose the truth about the food we eat, and fight for better food and farming. Compassion will continue to prevent suffering and make huge improvements to farming standards. However we believe that the animal welfare movement is less likely to win the arguments against factory farming on its own. We are building a groundswell of people and organisations to join our fight. Supported by people who recognise the danger that factory farming poses, we will end factory farming.

You can kick-start the revolution

Getting involved in the fight against factory farming couldn’t be easier. Simply sign up to receive email updates from Compassion in World Farming to hear about urgent campaign actions and other ways you can help end cruelty to farm animals.

About Compassion in World Farming

About Compassion in World Farming

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If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).