Balmoral Show: Campaigners voice worries over livestock
Filmmakers say intensive units hurt NI family farms
Strolling among the huge tractors and concrete plant on display at the Balmoral Show is a small group of campaigners who are worried about the direction in which farming is headed.
Tracy Worcester and Alastair Kenneil of Farms Not Factories are in Northern Ireland for 10 days to make a film about the increasing trend towards intensive livestock units that house thousands of animals indoors.
They say the trend is being driven forward by the controversial Going for Growth strategy and threatens Northern Ireland's reputation for producing outdoor pasture-fed livestock.
And while they were accompanied by Dr James Orr, NI director of Friends of the Earth, they insisted that this trend is not simply something that worries environmentalists but small farmers as well.
"We're here to make a film about the Limavady pig farm proposal," Tracy explained. "We have been looking not only at the people who are up in arms about it up there, but what is happening elsewhere in Northern Ireland."
Tracy says the team have come to the east of Northern Ireland because there are already a number of large pig farms which have prompted concerns from local people over smell, ammonia emissions and hydrogen sulphide levels.
"Ninety per cent of Northern Ireland's protected habitats have already exceeded the ammonia emission levels at which ecological damage occurs," she says.
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However, Tracy says the authorities in the farming industry have refused to be interviewed.
She insists the group is not anti-farmer, but is concerned about intensive 'factory' farming.
"It's local people and small-scale farmers who have come to us and said 'please tell our story, we don't feel that the democratic representatives are listening to us'. That's why we are called Farms Not Factories," she says.
Tracy said the group is concerned that the Going for Growth strategy is taking Northern Ireland in a direction that will damage the reputation of its produce.
"What will result is that Ireland has a well-deserved reputation for its outdoor pasture-fed livestock and that will be put at risk. The underlying agenda is a shift from family farms to factory farms."
The group is talking to the Stop the Newtownabbey Pig Factory pressure group set up in opposition of a 15,000-plus pig farm granted planning permission in late 2016.
The group is calling for a moratorium on intensive livestock units in Northern Ireland, and says that if planning permission is granted, there will soon be three intensive pig farms within seven miles of each other in Newtownabbey, housing more than 100,000 animals in a 12-month period.