Pigs on a factory farm in Ontario, photo: CALM Action/Creative Commons
Recall the infamous McLibel case from the late 1990s? Hints of that now via The Guardian: UK organic farming advocates the Soil Association have been given a libel warning by developers of a proposed pig factory farm, who say the Soil Association's objection to their plans is defamatory. If you're unfamiliar with the complexity/absurdity of current UK libel law, read about the proposed reforms, and then continue.
According to the letter received by the Soil Association from lawyers representing Midland Pig Producers, further dissemination of objections to the 25,000-animal factory farm (2,500 of which would be breeding sows) "would risk incurring considerable liability" on the part of the Soil Association.
The Soil Association's expert on livestock disease, Richard Young, explains some of their objections to the plan:
There are a lot of pig diseases that can pass to humans--salmonella, campylobacter, e. coli, MRSA, streptococcus suis, which can cause meningitis in humans, that name a few. With many of these we are seeing new strains that are multi-antibiotic resistant. Some are already in the UK herd, others are being found in herds abroad. The H1N1 virus [swine flu] is an amalgam of different strains of flu from pigs, poultry and humans; it's now being seen in UK pigs.
Our basic concern is that there is lots of research showing that there is lots of research showing that the more pigs you have together the greater the risk of disease and the greater the potential for amplification of any problems.
Though the farms' developers have said they have developed a "green cycle" scheme to reduce pollution, Young raises objections:
In theory they are proposing a very clever system, but it's gold-plating a fundamentally flawed one. Past experience shows this brave new world approach to problems usually goes wrong and when it does the consequences for humans are very serious.
On why they invoked libel laws, MPP's lawyers said:
Our client was concerned by the Soil Association's use of the planning process as a platform to raise concerns about issues of policy which were not directly relevant to its specific planning application. The allegations were defamatory and as such our client had a right to defend itself.
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More on Factory Farms:
Smithfield Foods Exposed for (More) Cruelty at Factory Farms
Factory Farms Decreasing in Number, But Increasing in Size: 20 Percent Growth in 5 Years
A Picture is Worth: Factory Farms in US Mapped in Their Polluting, Graphic, Gory Detail
Touting Factory Pig Farming Safe, Really?