Farmer slams 'ivory tower' celebs out to block massive pig plant
The man behind the plan for a massive pig plant in Newtownabbey has called for a "reality check" over the project.
Farmer Derek Hall also insisted that to claim his plans were about boosting profits was "insulting".
And he said local meat-eaters in the province had to decide whether they wanted to pay more for free-range products or a fair price for produce from the province.
"We need a reality check, the population is growing rapidly and hundreds of thousands of people here want to eat meat," he argued.
The comments came after a number of celebrities led by Queen guitarist Brian May strongly opposed the proposals, which are being examined by Antrim and Newtownabbey Council.
Actors Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove also warned the development, near Mossley in Newtownabbey, would be a disaster - and could open the floodgates for mega-farms across the United Kingdom.
Mr Hall hit out at the campaigning celebrities, who are patrons of the campaign organisation VIVA - Vegetarians International Voice for Animals - which has claimed "profit is the driving factor here" and the proposal could spell the beginning for "American-style monster farms" to spread.
In a statement Mr Hall said he had read that around a quarter of children living in the province were thought to be in low income families.
"Unlike celebrities, their families cannot afford to pay organic meat prices and it can't be fair for meat to be a luxury," he said. "I am proud to be a farmer in a country that is known around the world for the quality of what we produce.
"To suggest I am doing this purely for profit is insulting, and I am sure there are easier ways of making money than working from early morning to late at night in all weathers, 365 days a year.
"If you choose to eat meat, the next time you sit down to your ham sandwich or treat yourself to an Ulster fry just think: do I want to pay more money for free-range products or a fair price for meat that I know has been born and reared in Northern Ireland to the highest welfare standards?"
The controversial proposal is being considered by Antrim and Newtownabbey Council, which has indicated any final decision could still be some months away.
May, one of the world's best-known guitarists, told the Belfast Telegraph last month that he feared the plan could prove cruel and degrading to the animals, and also put smaller farms out of business.
Mr Hall said he respected the personal choice of people like Ms Seagrove and Mr Shaw to become long-term committed vegetarians and imagined they would object to any farm that was not organic and/or free-range.
A public petition has been mounted opposing the almost 35-acre site off the Carntall Road, which would accommodate up to 30,000 pigs in state-of-the-art facilities employing industry-best procedures.
But some residents say a final decision should be handed over to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, who is responsible for planning.