Outrage over green light for mega Newtownabbey pig farm
A planning application for a massive pig farm in Newtownabbey that will house 15,000 animals has been approved - despite vocal protests from local residents. The application for the operation on Rea Hill Road in Newtownabbey was made by farmer Derek Hall, who had originally suggested a facility that could accommodate 30,000 animals.
Furious opponents filled the chamber and protested outside, with some residents confronting councillors who supported the farm.
Among those who had objected to the plan were Queen guitarist and animal welfare campaigner Brian May, and actors Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove.
The charity Animal Aid had also claimed that up to 17,000 pigs would be kept in cramped conditions.
At a planning committee meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council last night, nine members voted in favour, with two DUP members voting against.
Ulster Unionist Roderick Swann, who backed the proposal, said: "I'm a farmer myself who supports the agri-industry and I was quite satisfied that all the necessary welfare issues were addressed.
"The planning case officer and all the consultees were quite happy with everything that was proposed."
Asked if he understood the strong opposition, Mr Swann said: "I can and I can't. There was an awful lot of 'not in my back yard', with lots of emails flying through.
"But these people are all farm quality assured, the pigs are well looked after. To get a quality assurance accreditation is very tight."
As well as animal welfare issues, protesters said they were concerned over excessive noise and smell.
"I myself was in Germany to see the system and I can tell you I was standing six inches from the external wall and could only smell wood. I also put my ear to the wall an only heard an odd snort," he said.
Mr Swann said he wanted celebrity activists such as Mr May not to interfere.
"I would say simply keep your nose out of it. I'm a farmer myself for 50 years and I understand farming," he said.
"A lot of these animal rights folks, they're entitled to their opinion, but I think they're on the wrong track sometimes. This will be the most modern pig farm, not a factory, not only in Ireland but also Great Britain."
The DUP's John Smyth and party colleague Thomas Hogg cast the only opposing votes.
"My objections were that I felt the experts weren't always right," said Mr Smyth. "I was undecided till tonight when I heard the arguments for and against.
"Bringing such a large development of slurry to the side of a hill I think is going to be dangerous for the future. Also, I have concerns how it will be produced year after year. I have grave concerns.
"I wouldn't like it on my front door, and a lot of people are concerned. It will definitely smell. People say it will be odour free, but there's no such thing as an odour free system. There are animal welfare concerns."
Mr Smyth added that a judicial review was possible but was sceptical as "ordinary people don't have the type of money for that".