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Campaigners demand action for people, the planet and animals over pandemic and climate threats.

A small group of campaigners has instructed a legal team led by top human rights lawyer, Michael Mansfield QC, in an attempt to ban factory farming in the UK. The campaigners say that such a ban is urgently needed to prevent further pandemics, reduce cruelty and halt runaway climate change. 

Humane Being – a not-for-profit, volunteer-run action group – is behind the challenge.  The group’s Scrap Factory Farming campaign has already crowdfunded £25,000 for legal proceedings and is aiming to raise £60,000. In December 2020, lawyers acting for Humane Being wrote to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) querying government plans regarding factory farming and related threats to human health. Well after the deadline, Defra responded with a letter that the group felt was unconvincing and they remain seriously worried that the issues linked to factory farming are being played down. A last chance   ‘letter before action’ – was issued to Defra today but, failing a satisfactory response, a court battle now seems likely.

The activists claim that ending factory farming is crucial if we are to stop the spread of the viruses that cause pandemics and meet Paris Agreement climate targets. They also say it is a vital part of the solution to problems of deforestation, animal welfare and growing antibiotic resistance. The World Health Organization estimates that increasingly ineffective antibiotics will lead to the deaths of ten million people a year by 2050.

Two members of the campaign team (Jane Tredgett and Peta Smith) recently persuaded the RSPCA to call publicly for an end to intensive animal farming in the UK.

“We are sitting on a pandemics timebomb. Three out of every four new and emerging diseases in people come from animals. Factory farming is the perfect breeding ground for these diseases: huge numbers of animals in cramped and filthy conditions. We may get control of Covid-19 – but we are doing nothing about the conditions that created it in the first place. Another pandemic is just waiting to happen,” said David Finney, spokesperson for Scrap Factory Farming.”

“Scrapping factory farms is also vital if we are to tackle the climate and environmental emergencies. Globally, around 15% of greenhouse gases are from animal farming, soya from South America is fed to UK factory farmed animals and the UK Climate Change Committee are recommending that we eat a healthy diet, with less beef, lamb and dairy.” added fellow campaigner, Robert Gordon.5

“We must recognise that dietary over-reliance on animal products produced by intensive means has created an environmental and human health imperative. Now, at this gruelling time in our nation’s and indeed mankind’s history, it is more important than ever to safeguard human health, reduce environmental impact, protect and have compassion for animals, and of course to reduce the risk of a further pandemic. The recent multiple outbreaks of avian influenza in this country further demonstrate that we need to take such risks extremely seriously. This case, which we believe to be a global first, starts with a key mitigator; the banning of cruel factory farming. Factory Farming breeds and risks incidences of disease, posing a health risk that the authorities cannot continue to ignore,” said Lorna Hackett of Hackett & Dabbs LLP, the law firm acting for Humane Being.

Scrap Factory Farming has numerous well-known supporters, including Jerome Flynn, Peter Tatchell and Plant Based Health Professionals (a group of 600 health professionals)

Jerome Flynn, campaign ambassador said “In these extraordinary dystopian days, the simple act of banning Factory Farming, would have a profound effect globally , not only towards the restoration of our planet’s ecosystems and the very balance of Life on earth , not only in reducing the enormous scale of untold suffering inflicted upon our beloved animal cousins, it would I believe also create an immeasurable wave of positive energy across the globe as we release ourselves and our Mother planet from the horrific consequences of an industry that completely disregards the preciousness of all life. It is starkly clear to me that there cannot be a future for mankind in a world where factory farms still exist. This is our time now to put things right , this is our time to come back to Life.”

“Factory farming is not only a risk to planetary health, but also to public health. With three out of four infectious diseases being zoonotic and originating from animals, factory farms pose a serious risk and potential to cause another deadly pandemic. Eating animals is unnecessary for individual health, while a whole food plant-based diet has been proven to have numerous health benefits, including minimising the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These same conditions are increasing the risk of a poor outcome from COVID-19. We support Humane Being’s legal challenge to call for an end to factory farming to protect personal, public, planetary and animal health,” said Dr Shireen Kassam, founder of Plant-Based Health Professionals.

For more information check out Humane Being and Scrap Factory Farming

  1. https://humanebeing.org.uk   www.scrapfactoryfarming.org
  2. https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/scrapfactoryfarming
  3. www.who.int/docs/default-source/documents/no-time-to-wait-securing-the-future-from-drug-resistant-infections-en.pdf
  4. RSPCA Resolution: That the RSPCA :
    • acknowledges the serious immediate and long term issues linked to factory / intensive farming of animals and call for an end to UK based intensive animal agriculture 
    • joins the many scientists / organisations who are calling for a significant reduction in meat and dairy consumption in order to achieve climate crisis targets, curtail associated environmental pollution, reduce pandemic risk, protect us against antibiotic resistance, enable better global food security and banish farming systems that deny sentient, intelligent animals any sense a normal life, whilst subjecting them to painful mutilations with no anaesthetic or pain relief.  

      Voted through by members at the Annual General Meeting with an 88% majority.
  5. https://www.theccc.org.uk/the-need-to-act/what-can-we-all-do/

Main header photo by Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals Media

UK Government Faces Legal Challenge Over Factory Farming ‘Timebomb’