January 11, 2011
When it comes to farms, size matters
In the UK, today was the last day for objections to an application for planning permission submitted by Nocton Dairies’ to build a ‘a US-style ‘mega’ dairy farm’ in rural Lincolnshire for a 3,770 cow dairy unit, dwarfing the average herd that has no more than a few hundred cows. An extraordinary 70,000+ objectors have objected to the proposed development, even though the new farm has reduced the number of cows it proposes to keep (the initial application was for 8,100) and despite impressive commitments to reduce carbon emissions in milk production.
While there are many concerns, objectors link two particularly resonant strands of opposition. The first is that a dairy farm of this size is out of place in the English countryside, the second is that keeping the cows inside, without letting them graze in the fresh air, infringes British beliefs in animal welfare. While much milk is imported into the United Kingdom from elsewhere in the EU, consumers have demonstrated a continuing desire for local dairy products and all the major supermarkets have stated that they would not sell Nocton’s milk in their stores. Campaigners and retailers alike have drawn on understandings of rurality, locality and an understanding of British (as opposed to American) farming to suggest that ‘if this proposal goes through it would not only have a disastrous effect on the well-being of the animals, but will potentially allow other factory farms in to change British farming and our countryside forever’.
As one campaign group puts it (drawing on a British love of tea), ‘Would you drink factory milk from battery cows? Not in my cuppa.’
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