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.
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.Take Action
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.