Row over Limavady pig farm plan escalates as 2,000 lend support to online petition
Residents opposing plans for a massive pig farm on the outskirts of Limavady have launched an online campaign amid fears if it goes ahead it will "destroy our community".
A Facebook page called 'Stop the Moys Road, Limavady Pig Farm' emerged over the weekend and so far more than 2,000 people have voiced their opposition on the change.org website through a "Say 'NO' to the Simpson 49,000 strong Pig Farm in Limavady" directed at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
Pig farmer Tommy Simpson has defended his plans, saying there would be no more than 20,000 pigs on the site at any time and the venture could create 12 jobs.
This comes just weeks after complaints were made about plans by Newtownabbey farmer Derek Hall to build a large pig production facility for 30,000 pigs on land on the Reahill Road as his existing farm has reached capacity.
Queen guitarist and animal rights campaigner Brian May is among those to voice opposition to what he described as the "cruel and degrading" Newtownabbey expansion plan.
Opponents of pig farms claim they are "barbaric" and damaging to the environment.
Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) deputy president and pig farmer Ivor Ferguson from Co Armagh told the Belfast Telegraph "scaremongering tactics are being used by environmentalists".
"For a farm to be expanding I think is good news," he said of the Limavady plans.
"There are so many regulations farmers have to meet, never mind planning, and residents shouldn't have any concerns."
Mr Ferguson also said pig welfare is of the utmost concern to farmers in the highly regulated sector. "All the farmers in Northern Ireland expanding pig businesses, their set up and the pigs' environment is based on science," he added.
"All farmers look after the welfare of pigs, that is what we spend our time doing.
"To say simply because a pig farm is big, welfare is compromised, is definitely wrong as the welfare of the animal is not compromised.
"All pig farmers have to meet the Red Tractor Quality Assurance code of practice. The pig business is one of the most regulated sectors in farming."
Farmer and TUV councillor Boyd Douglas said the Limavady plans are controversial and people living in the area have mixed views. "It has to go through the whole planning process," he said.
"It won't be approved if it doesn't meet the high standards.
"I don't think anyone should have any great fears about it."
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So far more than 2,000 people have signed an online petition to the Causeway Coast and Glens borough Council Planning Office:
"The impact on our homes, community and environment will be devastating with this barbaric 24/7 operation. The smell, noise and constant traffic created will permanently damage our community, threaten the health of our children and have a long lasting effect on our countryside setting, it MUST be stopped... Please sign this petition to save our homes, our community and help protect these animals from the impending cruelty at which they will suffer," it reads.