Council officials in Northern Ireland have received 35,000 complaints after plans were submitted to develop a farm to house up to 30,000 pigs.
The application to develop the 14ha site in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, includes an anaerobic digester, a mill and lagoons for water and slurry.
But the move sparked a major campaign by animal rights activists Vegetarians’ International Voice for Animals (Viva) on the petitions website Care2.
The petition which amassed 35,000 signatures in two days, demanded that Antrim and Newtownabbey Council refused planning permission for the development.
Viva claimed the farm would cause pollution, animal welfare issues and would “negatively impact the community through increased traffic and noise”.
But owners of the site Halls Pig Farm insisted that animal welfare was of the utmost importance.
“We believe in improving the welfare of our animals. This site will be one of the highest-welfare units in Europe,” a statement released on the owners’ website said.
It explained that the existing site was too small and needed extensive renovations but there was no room to expand.
“Our farm is on the Old Carrick Road in Monkstown but the buildings are old, and we do not have the space to renovate the site and remain in business.”
Farmer Derek Halln added: “We have been working on these proposals for more than four years and have carried out extensive research into the latest technology designed to negate any issue with odour, noise, the environment and the welfare of animals.”
Mr Hall said: “If the new farm is approved, we then plan to renovate the existing site to provide better welfare for our animals and reduce the number of pigs housed here by 85%, which will significantly reduce odour, and will allow us to renovate so we can continue to improve the welfare of our pigs.”
Antrim and Newtownabbey Council said comments would be considered up until the committee met to consider the application, and no date had been set for that meeting.