A Blow to Industrial Dairy Farming in the U.K.

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Just over a week ago, I received a phone call from Katharine Mansell, the Media Relations Manager for the U.K. World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). What she told me was without doubt excellent news for both sustainable agriculture and public health in Western Europe. The proposal to build the Nocton Dairy, which was to be the first U.S.-style industrialized dairy in Western Europe, is officially no longer under consideration. On February 16, 2011, the farmers withdrew their application, ostensibly after continued objections from the Environmental Agency of England and Wales. However, it is clear that the advocacy campaigns undertaken by groups such as the WSPA also played a critical role in the ultimate withdrawal of the application.

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As part of the Not in My Cuppa campaign, volunteers dressed up as cows in orange prison jumpsuits

While the Nocton Dairy debate received relatively little attention here in the U.S., it was a consistent topic of media coverage inthe U.K. since its initial proposal to the North Kesteven District Council in December 2009. The initial plan for the facility, formally known as the Nocton Dairy Ltd., included over 8,000 cattle almost entirely confined to large barns and featured two 24-hour milking parlors. In a statement that ended up giving ample fodder to groups opposing the dairy, one of the farmers behind the dairy noted that “cows do not belong in fields.” Soon after the proposal was made, both neighbors of the proposed facility and environmental and animal welfare groups began to express serious misgivings about the project. By April 2010, 150 MPs had signed an Early Day Motion (the equivalent of a resolution in the U.S. Congress) declaring their opposition to the construction of the dairy and stating that the House “…believes that the proposed unit is taking U.K. dairy farming in the wrong direction…” While the proposed number of cattle was eventually reduced to 3,770, serious concerns about the dairy remained.

Realizing the importance not only of preventing the construction of this particular industrial dairy, but also of preventing the further encroachment of U.S.-style industrial farm animal production in Western Europe, a number of advocacy groups came together in an unprecedented alliance of environmental, animal welfare, and rural protection groups. Read More >