A groundbreaking new case has been filed this week, appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to hold the UK Government accountable for failing to protect people from the life-threatening risks posed by factory farms. Humane Being, a nonprofit organisation behind the “Scrap Factory Farming” campaign, claims the Government’s support of factory farming is risking millions of deaths from the climate crisis, future pandemics and antibiotic resistance. The campaign’s legal team, headed by renowned human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC, says that the Government is well aware of these risks and is failing to both inform and protect the public.
Lorna Hackett, Head of Legal Practice at Hackett & Dabbs, which is bringing the challenge, says: ‘This world-first case joins a growing list of cases before the ECHR seeking to address the climate crisis, but is unique in also addressing pandemic and antibiotic resistance risks. Unlike cases already before the court from France, Switzerland and Portugal, our challenge to the UK Government specifically identifies the climate risks posed by runaway agricultural methane emissions and deforestation. Factory farming at current levels is simply not compatible with the Government’s emission reduction commitments, including the Global Methane Pledge.’
‘A ticking time bomb for our species’
Speaking to the risks of a future pandemic posed by factory farming, Dr. Alice Brough, a UK pig veterinarian and co-claimant to the legal challenge, said: ‘Intensive farms create the perfect breeding ground for disease, including those with human pandemic potential, with thousands of stressed animals crammed into filthy environments. Due to the conditions and common practices, antibiotics are often required in excess on these farms,
furthering the risk to humans. Only recently scientists found superbugs in UK meat. Since October 2021 there have been 116 UK outbreaks of avian influenza, an historically and
currently pertinent zoonosis — almost a 400% increase on the 2020-21 season. The vast feed requirements for intensively farmed animals lead to devastating deforestation in
other parts of the world, such as South America, and contribute significantly to the climate crisis. Every part of this practice is a ticking time bomb for our species.
Use of antibiotics in farmed animals kills 1.27 million people each year
Dr. Shireen Kassam, a medical consultant supporting the campaign, added: ‘We are at risk of a pandemic far worse than Covid-19. The Government has plans for dealing with
750,000 deaths from a flu pandemic which history and science show is most likely to come from a commercial animal farm. Farm use of antibiotics contributes to antimicrobial resistance which is already killing 1.27 million people globally each year. In 2020 the UK Government was reporting 178 new antibiotic-resistant infections every day in England alone. Heat-related deaths in the UK currently number 4000 and will only get worse due to climate change, as we see more extreme weather like the heatwave last week.’
The campaign’s lawyers have asked for their application to be given priority assessment by the court.
For more information on the harmful effects of intensive animal farming on animals, humans and the planet, download the Scrap Factory Farming research booklet.