A proposed mega pig factory in Derbyshire will place the health of women at a local prison, and that of all local residents, at great risk. Amy Thomas, Outreach Intern at UK charity Farms Not Factories, explains why this poisonous plan for a pig factory, and others like it, is bad news for people, animals and planet, and what you can do to stop it.

Midland Pig Producers (MPP), a pig production company and subsidiary of the Leavesley Group, are awaiting the verdict from Derbyshire County Council to build a 25,000 unit intensive pig facility in the village of Foston, South Derbyshire. The site will cover over thirty acres of land and will be situated within 100m of 35 local residents, some of whom are immediately adjacent to the site. Not only will the factory be critically close to local homes, it will also be within 150m of HMP Foston, a women’s prison housing 400 inmates and staff.

If it gets the go-ahead, the proposed facility will be built completely from scratch, and will be one of the largest industrial piggeries in the UK. On top of the massive energy input required to build it in the first place, there are numerous serious concerns about the disruption and threats to health that the mega piggery will impose on people nearby – particularly the inmates of the women’s prison.

Women inmates and staff will be exposed to the full effects of an intensive pig production system. They will suffer noise and light disturbances, vibrations, foul odours and pollutants. As there is no on-site abattoir, there will also be regular export of pigs for slaughter – one thousand per week – and a constant trafficking of goods, causing non-stop disruption and vehicle pollution. Inmates will obviously be unable to avoid these impacts and will be subjected to them on a daily basis, an infringement of their most basic human rights. Perhaps the biggest concern regarding the impacts on inmate health, however, is the threat of antimicrobial resistance and exposure to bio-aerosols, dust particles (PM2.5 – PM10) and ammonia.

Intensive pig systems rely on overcrowded, and incredibly cruel, conditions to factory as many pigs as possible. These conditions warrant the use of medicines to keep the animals alive, for example the prophylactic use of antibiotics. This means that antibiotics are administered for disease prevention, rather than for treatment. It is well known that exposure to antibiotics creates resistant strains of bacteria, which are threatening to human health and can pass from farm animals to humans. It was recently recorded that a pig in the UK had livestock-associated MRSA (LA-MRSA), commonly found in EU pigs. This is a great threat to public health, and is alarming for those living in such close proximity to the proposed pig factory. Inmates in the women’s prison are at considerably higher risks of exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria, which may be present in bio-aerosols and the large quantities of pig effluent produced each day.

Keeping extremely high numbers of pigs indoors also brings with it the problem of what to do with vast amounts of waste which, in the incidence of flooding, pose a high risk of contamination to the environment. MPP have proposed to deal with this using a biodigester to generate energy, a potential fire and explosion hazard – not exactly ideal when placed within metres of residential areas! Despite generating energy, the biodigester will not kill all the bacteria or chemical contaminants present in the waste. And, at times, the filtration systems planned have been found to be only 73% effective at removing P10 dust particulates. Let’s not forget the unpleasant stench, which the biodigester will not be completely effective at reducing. Indeed, it could even contribute to it; whilst running it will emit pollutants such as nitrogen, sulfur oxides, particulates, carbon monoxide and even more ammonia!

At Farms Not Factories, we have strongly opposed the mega piggery at Foston from the outset. Not only does it have shocking animal welfare implications, it will also have grave impacts on the environment, public health and rural communities. We have collaborated with local community groups and celebrities like Dominic West (of HBO’s The Wire) to oppose the build. Further information on Object to Foston includes damage to local farming livelihoods, resident homes and demolition of the surrounding countryside.

As consumers, we have the power to change the way that meat is produced. By supporting real farms instead of animal factories like Foston, we are sending a clear message to the meat industry and policy makers – we want food production to be good for animals, people and the planet.

Join the global movement against animal factories and take the Pig Pledge to only buy meat from real farms – or go meat-free! You can also support the local community of Foston, and object to the mega piggery via our petition. Together we can beat MPP!

Women’s Environmental Network is proud to support Farms Not Factories in their amazing work. For the sake of our health, our environment, and the welfare of animals, let’s put an end to the practice of factory farming, and reclaim sovereignty over the way our food is produced. Have a look here to see what WEN is doing to promote good food production – good in every sense of the word.