As well as the 14,000 or so formal objections and a 53223 name petition submitted prior to the 11th of January this year, some significant organisations have added their voice against the proposal. This week, the big news in the debate was an objection submitted by the Environment Agency, citing the potential environmental impact of the unprecedentedly large dairy if it were to go ahead. This is being hailed as a significant blow to the chances of the plans making it through the next round of reviews.
In spite of supporters protesting that this is “just another farm”, and that dairies of this type are necessary for food security in the future, for objecters such as myself, the Nocton proposals appear to be a step in the wrong direction. We should not be looking at zero-grazing methods, which keep cows out of fields and maintain them on manufactured feeds and medications at a time when both environmental pressures and the preference of a growing number of consumers are favouring organic production.
The WSPA “Not In My Cuppa” campaign points out that, “Livestock production releases 18 per cent of GHG emissions compared to air travel’s 14 per cent. The need for environmental responsibility cannot be overstated.”
The Environment Agency’s objection considers the Nocton proposals to, “pose an unacceptable risk of pollution to groundwater”. Here’s a potted summary:
- The proposed site sits on a highly fractured limestone aquifer that is directly linked with local water supplies, and there is a high risk of pollutants entering the groundwater in the area.An estimated 80,000 m3 of digestate is expected to be produced every year. If any of this ends up in the groundwater the damage will be very difficult to reverse and also undetectable until it is too late.
- Nitrate levels are already high in the water and measures should be being taken to reduce and not increase the risk of it becoming higher.
- A quarter of all reported farming related pollution incidents stem from dairy farming. In spite of better engineering, in the case of Nocton, because of the volumes of pollutant involved, any human error has the potential for a far greater impact than any traditional dairy.
- The current proposal “lacks adequate information to demonstrate that the risks posed can be satisfactorily managed.”
- Milk itself is also a highly polluting substance and the Agency is concerned about how the 107,250 litres of milk produced per day will be safely managed if, for any reason, it cannot be moved off site quickly.
- The Agency cites an example of what they consider to be a miscalculation of the volume of slurry to be stored at certain times and point out that remedial action taken to accomodate this at a later date, may be outside the scope of the current proposal.
- In short, the risks are potentially far too consequential and the plans are not sufficiently detailed in terms of risk management to satisfy the agency and they have recommended that, “permission should be refused on a precautionary basis”.
The potential for this dairy to be built should be of concern to everyone in Britain. As concerned consumers we have a great deal of power, because it is our choice that drives the markets. According to a MORI poll, 60% of Britains would not knowingly choose to buy factory farmed milk. However, we also seem to believe in cheap milk, and avoid paying the true price in light of the environment and for the sake of the animals and the farmers. Is it really supermarket pricing policy that is driving most of the change?
Personally I enjoy a healthful, varied and delicious diet with no dairy products whatsoever, but for those who are not prepared to take that step, the least we can do is care about where they come from, even if that means paying a few more pence on the pint.