Communications consultant Amy Jackson explains why she thinks the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is continuing to battle plans for a 1,000-cow unit in Wales and what makes this such a vital case for the charity.
The WSPA’s latest gambit in its fight against larger dairy farms is to invest up to £50,000 in a High Court appeal against the Jones’ planned 1,000-cow dairy at Leighton Farm, Powys, recently approved after a public inquiry.
Surprisingly, it does not cite grounds of animal welfare, but technicalities over wording and arguments about the economic benefits.
The WSPA, a charity with a remit to “tackle animal cruelty across the globe”, claims large dairy farms cause environmental damage, impoverish local communities and compromise animal welfare – but wasn’t able to present any UK-based evidence to convince either the inquiry planning inspector or the Welsh minister.
“Despite best efforts, none of its allegations about the effect on cows, the environment or people have been upheld at any point throughout its entire campaign.”
This might make sense if the application was the precedent the WSPA claims, but government statistics tell us Leighton Farm is not; in 2012 there were six farms with more than 1,000 milking cows in Wales and 17 across Britain, all appearing to operate without issue.
The Jones family has jumped through planning hoops for six years. They are just one of many British farming businesses trying to expand in different ways to meet a growing global demand for dairy products.
So the WSPA submitting this last-minute appeal when the fight was all but over is harsh – especially as other farmers have expanded unhindered throughout this period. But while the Joneses understandably feel bullied, I don’t believe it’s personal.
Instead, I think it shows how pivotal this case is for WSPA. Despite best efforts, none of its allegations about the effect on cows, the environment or people have been upheld at any point throughout its entire campaign.
The future of the WSPA’s crusade against large dairies could rest on this single application, explaining why it is risking tens of thousands of pounds to take the matter to the High Court on grounds completely outside its charitable remit.
Amy Jackson recently wrote a Nuffield Scholarship report – Can We Learn To Love The Mega-Dairy?