photo by MarilynJane (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

Is American-style industrialized livestock farming coming to Europe? There are plans to open a massive ‘feedlot’ dairy farm in Lincolnshire, England where some 8,100 cows would be housed and fed a mix of alfalfa and maize instead of grazing on grass in open pastures as is customary in the UK.

The industrial factory farm would be the first of its kind in Western Europe. It may seem like a surprising development at a time when food and environmental awareness is so strong. Intensive farming is generally seen as bad for both human and animal health as well as for the environment.

From a CNN report:

The plans have sparked fierce protests from an unlikely alliance of campaigners that includes dairy farmers and animal rights activists, with everything from concern about damage to local archaeology, pollution and animal welfare being put forward as objections.

However, there are environmental arguments from both sides of the intensive farming debate, as a recent article in the Ecologist entitled ‘Have we got it right on meat and greenhouse gas emissions?’, points out.

Of course the main argument from Nocton Dairies, the company planning the mega-dairy in England, is economic. But Nocton also maintains that it will implement the ‘highest standards’ of animal welfare and environmental standards in the UK.

Doubtful. Intensive farming is no doubt more productive, efficient and profitable – but in terms of milk quality, pollution, risk for disease, humaneness, ecological sustainability and carbon sequestering – factory farms have a bad record.

It would be a move in the wrong direction to ‘Americanize’ Europe’s dairy farms.

by Graham Land

Additional resources:

Farmer’s Guardian – MPs line up to oppose ‘super dairy’ plan as election looms