The government must take steps to stop anti-meat campaigners from using the planning system to block farmers’ attempts to develop their businesses, according to the National Pig Association.
Responding to a government consultation on the rural planning system, NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson said the pig industry was increasingly seeing animal rights activists influence the entire planning process using online campaigns.
“Animal welfare is not a planning consideration and we are extremely concerned that this type of insidious campaign will damage applicants’ businesses and reputation, as well as that of the British pig industry as a whole.”
Ms Wilson said in their online campaigns and petitions, animal rights organisations used highly emotive and sensationalist language which was “misleading”.
She also questioned tactics used by organisations such as Animal Aid, which included shooting undercover video footage or pictures on farms which the NPA felt was often “not a true representation of conditions on the unit”.
The Animal Aid website currently features an appeal for people to stop a planned pig farm in Northern Ireland.
An article with the headline “Help stop second mega pig farm in Northern Ireland” claims the “planned factory farm will incarcerate 2,247 sows at a time”.
It urges supporters to send a template letter to Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council to help stop the unit from being approved.
It adds: “Please note that while the impact of this development on the pigs is of course our primary concern, animal welfare is often not considered in planning objections. So although it is important to mention it, please also include other points such as environmental pollution, risk to human health, increased traffic, noise etc.”
Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler said the group was seeking legal advice about some of the NPA’s comments, claiming a number were defamatory.
In a statement, he said the organisation was peaceful, did not damage property, observed strict biosecurity measures and rather than intimidating local people, it worked with them.
“The process that so troubles the NPA is called democracy: a proposal comes before the relevant local authority, the details are put into the public domain and people have their say,” he added.
“The results might not please the NPA, but the question it must ask itself is this: Why do these proposed vast pig units meet with such strong opposition?”